France releases daughter of S.Korea magnate linked to ferry disaster

A court sketch made on November 5, 2014, shows South Korean Yoo Som-Na at the Appeal Court of the Paris' courthouse (AFP Photo/Benoit Peyrucq) (AFP/File)

A French court on Tuesday released the daughter of a South Korean tycoon blamed for a ferry disaster that killed more than 300 people, ruling that more information is needed before a decision can be made on whether to extradite her. Yoo Som-Na, 48, is wanted in South Korea on suspicion that she embezzled millions of dollars from subsidiaries of her family's company, Chonghaejin Marine Co. Authorities there believe the alleged embezzlement contributed to safety defects that led to the April 2014 Sewol ferry disaster which claimed the lives of more than 300 people, most of them schoolchildren. Yoo has been held in France for more than a year. A court in Paris in January authorised her extradition, but the appeals court overturned the decision in April, meaning that her case had to be reconsidered by a lower court. On Tuesday, an appeals court in Versailles outside Paris ruled that French justice authorities would need more information to make a decision on whether to extradite Yoo, her lawyers said. "Taking into account the political context, the threats to the presumption of innocence... [the court] decided to release" Yoo, her lawyers Olinka Malaterre, Herve Temime and Rachel Lindon said in a statement. "It's a relief after 13 months of unjustified detention." A judicial source said Yoo had been granted conditional release, without specifying the conditions. Yoo's father Yoo Byung-Eun had been the target of a nationwide manhunt after he refused to respond to an official summons following the ferry disaster. The tycoon, who in addition to his substantial business interests also ran a religious group, was found dead in a plum orchard last June. A post-mortem failed to determine the cause of death. Yoo Som-Na's brother Yoo Dae-Kyun was found guilty in November in South Korea of siphoning off some $7.2 million (6.3 million euros) from the company and sentenced to three years in prison. That same month, the Sewol's captain was jailed for 36 years for gross negligence and dereliction of duty, while three other senior crew members were sentenced to jail terms of between 15 and 30 years.