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Dead Body of Fugitive Owner of Sunken South Korean Sewol Ferry, Cult Leader Found

( [email protected] ) Jul 22, 2014 12:12 PM EDT

Sunken Korean Ferry
(Reuters)

The body of Yoo Byung-eun, owner of the company which operated the Sewol ferry in South Korea and cult leader who was charged with embezzlement and tax evasion, was recently identified after being found lying dead in an orchard in Suncheon, South Korea.

Prosecutors had been trying to arrest 73-year-old Yoo Byung-eun in connection with the ferry which sunk off the coast of South Korea in April, killing at least 294 people. Yoo's body was found badly decomposing in an orchard in June, and authorities recently concluded that it was the businessman after taking fingerprint and DNA samples. Thus far, the cause of Yoo's death is unknown, and investigators are trying to determine whether it was a homicide. Fox News reports that three empty bottles of liquor were found near the body, along with a magnifying glass and a bag.

The Sewol capsized off the coast of South Korea in April with more than 300 passengers on board, most of whom were students. The New York Times reports that Yoo and his family are accused of draining the finances of the company which operated the Sewol, leaving inadequate funds to train the ferry's crew in safety measures. The Sewol ferry was carrying twice as much cargo as was permissible, and members of the crew reportedly instructed passengers to stay on board the ship as it was sinking.

More than 60 crew members and company officials have been charged with murder, negligence, and other criminal charges associated with the disaster. Thus far, 294 bodies have been found and ten people are still missing.

Yoo had also founded a cult called the "Salvationists," and 32 members of the sect were found dead in the attic of a factory in 1987 after forming what was thought to be a suicide pact. Yoo was initially suspected to have been involved in the incident, since he had financial ties to some of those who had committed suicide, but there was not enough evidence to convict him.