International Financial Law Prof Blog

Editor: William Byrnes
Texas A&M University
School of Law

Monday, November 16, 2015

US Returns Forfeited Public Corruption Assets of Past President to Korea

The Department of Justice returned $1,126,951.45 in forfeited assets to the government of the Justice logoRepublic of Korea today.  The forfeited assets were the profits of a public corruption scheme orchestrated by former Korean President Chun Doo Hwan in the 1990s, and were laundered to the United States by Chun’s family members and associates.  The assets were forfeited in two recent United States civil forfeiture actions as part of the Department of Justice’s Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative, which is coordinated by the department’s Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section.  See more US assets of corrupt former Korean president Chun Doo Hwan seized

“The return of these assets is a powerful vindication of the rule of law, and an important victory for the people of the Republic of Korea,” said Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch.  “Since it was established in 2010, the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative has been an effective tool in our ongoing efforts to curb high-level public corruption around the world.  As we move forward, the Department of Justice will remain committed to using all the resources at its disposal to ensure that government funds go to their lawful purposes; that stolen assets are returned to state coffers; and that corrupt officials are held fully accountable for abusing their positions.”

In 1997, a criminal court in Korea convicted former President Chun of accepting more than $200 million in bribes from Korean corporations and ordered him to pay approximately $212 million in criminal penalties.  In 2013, the Anti-Corruption Division of the Korean Supreme Prosecutor’s Office opened a money laundering investigation regarding the potential laundering of the bribery proceeds into the United States by Chun and his associates through the acquisition of U.S. real estate and opening of U.S. bank accounts.

Prosecutors assigned to the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative initiated their own investigation, aided by agents from ICE-HSI and the FBI.  In January 2014, FBI investigators in the Central District of California seized $726,951.45 held in a California escrow account, which was traced to the sale of real estate property acquired by Chun’s son and his girlfriend in 2005 in Orange County, California.  In February 2015, Kleptocracy prosecutors filed a second civil forfeiture action in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania seeking to forfeit a secured investment worth approximately $500,000 in a Pennsylvania company, which also was traced to Chun’s corruption scheme.  On March 4, 2015, the department reached a settlement agreement of its civil forfeiture actions, resulting in the forfeiture of a total of $1,126,951.

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