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Hamilton Hotel raided, CEO taken in, over Itaewon tragedy

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Investigators carry a box of evidence from the Yongsan District Office following a raid on Nov. 8, in connection with the deadly Itaewon crowd crush. [YONHAP]
Investigators carry a box of evidence from the Yongsan District Office following a raid on Nov. 8, in connection with the deadly Itaewon crowd crush. [YONHAP]

A special police investigation team raided the Hamilton Hotel and two other locations Wednesday morning over suspicions that the hotel was illegally extended into the anonymous alley in Itaewon where so many died 10 days ago.

On Wednesday, the team sent 14 investigators to three locations: the Hamilton Hotel, the home of Lee Sang-yong, the hotel’s CEO, and the home of another person on Wednesday.

The team booked Lee for questioning and started an investigation into the hotel to look for evidence that it violated the Building Act and the Road Act by illegally extending the building.

According to the hotel’s building ledger, the hotel built a 17.4-square-meter (187.3 square-feet) terrace and other structures on the side of the main building.

The special team will investigate whether the illegal construction contributed to the tragedy.

The hotel had been postponing the demolition of the illegal construction despite the Yongsan District Office’s request and had paid fines of over 500 million won ($366,550) since 2014.

The team also raised the possibility of raiding the Ministry of the Interior and Safety and the Yongsan Presidential office, with a person from the team saying that “institutions with legal responsibility related to the tragedy and which may have contributed to the tragedy by responding poorly will be the subject of investigation.”

The Itaewon tragedy claimed 156 lives on the night of Oct. 29, according to the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasure Headquarters.

BY CHO JUNG-WOO [cho.jungwoo1@joongang.co.kr]