SEOUL, July 4 (Yonhap) -- A local court on Friday ordered the provisional seizure of assets held by those allegedly responsible for April's ferry sinking in order to cover the huge cost of handling the disaster and compensating victims and their families.
Accepting a petition filed by the government, the Seoul Central District Court ordered the sequestration of assets owned by Yoo Byung-eun, a 73-year-old fugitive billionaire whose family owns Sewol ferry operator Chonghaejin Marine Co., four officials of the company, and eight crew members aboard the ill-fated ship.
The government is expected to secure up to 403.15 billion won (US$397 million) if it wins court battles with them, court officials said.
More than 300 people, mostly high school students on a school trip, were killed after the ferry sank off the country's southwest coast on April 16.
Authorities suspect that corruption by Yoo's family resulted in lax safety practices, such as cargo overloading, which ultimately led to the tragedy. They have been offering bounties of 500 million won and 100 million won, respectively, as rewards for information leading to the capture of Yoo and his eldest son, Dae-kyun.
The two are still at large despite a massive nationwide manhunt over the past two months.
In a related matter, a district court in the western port city of Incheon on Wednesday ordered the confiscation of an additional 10.2 billion won worth of assets held by the fugitive family as part of efforts to hold them criminally liable for the deadly disaster.
The Incheon District Court accepted the prosecution's request to temporarily seize the Yoo family's assets, which are suspected to have been accumulated both at home and abroad through various criminal means.
The decision is the third of its kind since the court earlier temporarily seized assets worth 37.4 billion won from the Yoo family after two previous prosecution requests.
The move is part of law enforcement's efforts to prevent the suspects from siphoning off the alleged criminal earnings before their trials, which differs from the Seoul court's decision on Friday.
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