US seeks to recover more than $700,000 in kleptocracy proceeds of former South Korean President

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WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a civil forfeiture complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California seeking to recover more than $700,000 in alleged corruption proceeds of Chun Doo-hwan, the former president of the Republic of Korea.

The forfeiture follows an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the FBI.

The money was seized in February 2014 from the sale of a house located in Newport Beach, Calif., which President Chun's son, Chun Jae Yong, had purchased in 2005 with proceeds allegedly traceable to his father's corruption. The United States is working with the Republic of Korea's Supreme Prosecutor's Office, the Ministry of Justice and the Seoul Central District Prosecutor's Office to forfeit these corruption proceeds.

"This most recent seizure is part of an ongoing effort by HSI to identify and seize illegal assets in the United States obtained by corrupt foreign leaders who use our country as a safe haven to conceal the illicit proceeds of their crimes," said HSI Office of International Affairs Assistant Director John G. Connolly. "HSI special agents in our 67 offices in 48 countries will continue to work with our domestic offices as well as international law enforcement partners to hold these individuals accountable."

"While serving as Korea's president, Chun Doo-hwan betrayed the Korean people by taking over $200 million in bribes, some of which his family members then illegally laundered into the United States," said DOJ's Criminal Division Acting Assistant Attorney General David A. O'Neil. "Through the department's Kleptocracy Initiative, we are making crystal clear that the United States will not tolerate the use of its financial system by corrupt foreign officials – or their relatives – to harbor their ill-gotten gains."

"The U.S. will not be a safe repository for assets misappropriated by corrupt foreign leaders," said FBI Los Angeles Division Assistant Director in Charge Bill L. Lewis. "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."

As alleged in the forfeiture complaint, President Chun was convicted in Korea in 1997 of receiving more than $200 million in bribes from Korean businesses and companies. President Chun and his relatives laundered some of these corruption proceeds through a web of nominees and shell companies in both Korea and the United States.

Through close cooperation between U.S. and Korean law enforcement and prosecution authorities, the $721,951 sought for forfeiture was identified and seized when President Chun's relatives sold a home in Newport Beach that previously had been purchased with the laundered proceeds of President Chun's corruption.

The investigation was conducted jointly by HSI Attaché Seoul, the FBI's Kleptocracy Program of the International Corruption Unit within the Criminal Investigation Division and the West Covina Resident Agency of the Los Angeles Division with assistance from HSI Miami.

HSI's Foreign Corruption Investigations target corrupt foreign officials around the world that attempt to utilize U.S. financial institutions to launder illicit funds. HSI special agents conduct investigations into the laundering of proceeds emanating from foreign public corruption, bribery or embezzlement. The objective is to prevent foreign derived ill-gotten gains from entering the U.S. financial infrastructure, to seize identified assets in the United States and repatriate these funds on behalf of those affected.

This case was brought under the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative by 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. 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

The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Woo S. Lee of DOJ's Criminal Division's Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section, with substantial support from the Criminal Division's Office of International Affairs.

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