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Body of fugitive billionaire in deadly South Korean ferry case found

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SUNCHEON, South Korea — DNA taken from a body found in June matches that of fugitive billionaire Yoo Byung-eun, police in South Korea said Tuesday.

Yoo went missing after a ferry sank in April, killing 292 people aboard, including hundreds of high school students.

Through an investment vehicle and subsidiary, Yoo, 73, and his two sons were believed to have controlled the shipping company that operated the ferry, according to the semi-official Yonhap news agency. In late April, Yoo’s representatives sent a statement denying that he had any direct or indirect connection to Chonghaejin Marine Company.

Yoo was wanted for questioning in connection with an investigation into alleged funds embezzlement, tax evasion and other irregularities that prosecutors say could have contributed to the sinking on April 16.

The chief of police in Suncheon, Yoo Hyung-ho, told reporters that the body was 80% decomposed when an autopsy was started June 13, a day after the body was found. Yonhap said the body was found in a plum field in the city of Suncheon, about 300 kilometers (186 miles) south of Seoul.

He said authorities were able to match DNA from the body to the billionaire and also used a fingerprint from the right index finger.

The police chief added that a few empty alcohol bottles were also found with the body. The cause of the death remains under investigation.

Yoo was known as the “millionaire without a face” because of his reluctance to appear in public. Yoo had four sons and daughters; the whereabouts of three of the four are unknown.