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U.S. seizes another half million dollars from ‘penniless’ South Korea kleptocrat

The DOJ said Wednesday it seized $500,000 in assets traceable to bribe money accumulated by Chun Doo Hwan, the former president of the Republic of Korea.

In April, the DOJ seized more than $700,000 generated by the sale of a Newport (California) Beach home owned by Chun’s son, Chun Jae Yong. Prosecutors said the house was bought in 2005 with money obtained through bribes collected by his father.

The DOJ brought the case under its Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative, an effort among U.S. federal agencies to target proceeds of overseas public graft.

The ex-president and his relatives laundered some of the money through nominees and shell companies in Korea and the United States, the DOJ said.

Chun, pictured, a former general, served as South Korea’s leader from 1979 to 1988.

A federal district court in Pennsylvania on Tuesday unsealed an application filed two weeks ago by the Justice Department to seize an investment by Chun’s daughter-in-law in a Pennsylvania limited partnership worth about $500,000.

The money seized from Chun in February and this week will be turned over to the South Korea government, subject to court approval, the DOJ said.

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

Chun was convicted in South Korea in 1997 of taking 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 small amount, claiming he was penniless. In court in 2003, he said he had access to only $265.

The DOJ said Wednesday that the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative is “a team of dedicated prosecutors in the Criminal Division’s Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section, working in partnership with federal law enforcement agencies to forfeit the proceeds of foreign official corruption and, where appropriate, return those proceeds to benefit the people harmed by these acts of corruption and abuse of office.” 

U.S. authorities have been working “closely” with prosecutors and law enforcement agencies in South Korea, the DOJ said.  

“Individuals with information about possible proceeds of foreign corruption located in or laundered through the United States should contact federal law enforcement or send an email to [email protected],” the DOJ said.

The DOJ’s September 3, 2014 release is here.

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Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog. He can be contacted here.

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