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DOJ seizing assets from South Korea kleptocrat

Chun Doo-Hwan, South Korean leader from 1979 to 1988The U.S. Department of Justice filed a civil forfeiture claim to seize more than $700,000 in alleged corruption proceeds from former South Korean President Chun Doo-hwan on Thursday.

The funds came from the sale of a Newport Beach home owned by Chun’s son, Chun Jae Yong, which prosecutors said was purchased in 2005 with money obtained through bribes collected by his father.

The DOJ brought the case through the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative, an effort among U.S. federal agencies to target proceeds of corruption overseas, and South Korean authorities.

The ex-president and his relatives laundered some of the money through nominees and shell companies in Korea and the United States, according to DOJ’s statement.

When the Newport Beach home was sold in February for about $2.1 million, federal officials froze $727,000 that was placed in an escrow account.

The money will be turned over to the South Korean government, subject to court approval, the DOJ said.

“The FBI is committed to working with foreign and domestic partners to identify and return those assets to the legitimate owners, in this case, the people of the Republic of Korea,” said Bill L. Lewis, the FBI’s assistant director in charge of the agency’s Los Angeles division.

The former president was convicted in South Korea in 1997 of receiving about $200 million in bribes from Korean businessmen and companies.

He was pardoned immediately and ordered to pay back the bribe money he collected. But he returned only a portion of it, claiming he was broke.

The DOJ’s April 24 release is here.

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Julie DiMauro is the executive editor of FCPA Blog and can be reached here.

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2 Comments

  1. One notes the statement of Bill L. Lewis that the “FBI is committed to working with foreign and domestic partners to identify and return …. assets to the legitimate owners, in this case, the people of the Republic of Korea". Perhaps Bill could please explain to Nigerians why the same principle is not being applied to the billions of Dollars being recovered by the DOJ from Nigerian politicians, past and present.


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