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DOJ returns $1 million in forfeited bribe money to South Korea

Former South Korea President Chun Doo HwanThe Department of Justice returned $1.1 million in forfeited assets to the government of the Republic of Korea Monday. 

The forfeited assets came from a corruption scheme orchestrated by former Korean President Chun Doo Hwan in the 1990s. Chun’s family and friends had laundered the money in the United States, the DOJ said.

The assets were forfeited in two recent federal civil actions that were part of the DOJ’s Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative.

In 1997, a criminal court in Korea convicted Chun of taking more than $200 million in bribes from Korean corporations and ordered him to pay $212 million in criminal penalties. Chun said he was broke and couldn’t pay anything.

In 2013, Korean prosecutors began investigating allegations that Chun and others laundered some of the money by buying real estate in the United States and using U.S. bank accounts.

In the U.S., prosecutors from the DOJ’s Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative also opened an investigation.

In January 2014, FBI agents in California seized about $727,000 in a California escrow account. The money was traced to the sale of real estate in Orange County that Chun’s son bought in 2005. 

In February this year, Kleptocracy prosecutors filed a second civil forfeiture action in Pennsylvania against a secured investment traced to Chun worth $500,000 in a Pennsylvania company.

In March, the DOJ settled the civil forfeiture actions for a total of about $1.1 million.

The DOJ said its Kleptocracy prosecutors worked with Korean law enforcement agencies, including the Seoul Central District Prosecutor’s Office, the Supreme Prosecutor’s Office, and the Ministry of Justice.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch said, “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.”

The DOJ “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,” she said.

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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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