| To Korea`s prosecution and police that were chasing Yoo Byeong-eon, the fugitive shipping tycoon wanted for being allegedly responsible for the April 16 sinking of the ferry Sewol, investigation cooperation seems to have been nothing but rhetoric in the first place. It has been revealed that the two law enforcement agencies, which were on the manhunt for the fugitive without knowing he had died some 40 days ago, tried to hide key information from each other in their attempts to monopolize the credit for his capture.
The answers by Justice Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn and Police Commissioner Lee Sung-han to an ad-hoc National Assembly committee meeting Thursday laid bare the two law enforcement agencies` bungling.
The national police chief admitted that he had no idea about the prosecution`s May 25 raid on a villa in Suncheon, South Jeolla Province where Yoo was believed to have been hiding. When Lee Chul-woo, a lawmaker of the ruling Saenuri Party, asked if Lee had been informed by the prosecution of the raid, the police chief said he was not.
The prosecution also kept from the police the information that its investigators raided the villa again in late June and found a bagful of money amounting to 1 billion won (1 million U.S. dollars). Had the prosecution shared the important information with the police, the investigation and its direction could have totally changed. However, the prosecution gave a lame excuse, saying that it did not share the information with the police "for security reasons." The justice minister noted that the prosecution investigators had installed closed-circuit TV cameras at the scene and conducted the probe in secret to arrest Yoo or his collaborators.
The two law enforcement agencies also failed to cooperate even after Yoo`s body was found. The police was busy making excuses as to why they had missed key clues at the scene. Lee said that police investigators could not identify the body as that of Yoo because it was extremely decayed and that Yoo`s ragged clothes and liquor bottles around the body led the police to determine that the dead person was a homeless man. The prosecution also failed to go to the scene even after a body was found at a place in close proximity to Yoo`s villa. "I was briefed that prosecutors could not examine the body in person," Hwang said, admitting that it was the prosecution`s fault.
Lawmakers from both the ruling and opposition parties criticized the law enforcement agencies in one voice, lashing out at their failure to cooperate.