Ex-president’s assets seized in the United States

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Ex-president’s assets seized in the United States

The United States this week confiscated half a million dollars in assets linked to proceeds from corruption that belonged to former South Korean President Chun Doo Hwan.

The seizure was part of an effort by Washington to cooperate with Seoul in cracking down on the ex-strongman’s wealth overseas. The U.S. Justice Department said on Wednesday it had taken control of an investment worth approximately $500,000 made by Chun’s daughter-in-law in a limited partnership in Pennsylvania. Her name was not made public.

This puts the total value of proceeds linked to funds laundered by the Chun family and seized by the United States at more than $1.2 million.

In February, U.S. officials seized $726,000 from the sale of a home in Newport Beach, California, that Chun Jae-yong, the former president’s second son, purchased in 2005.

“President Chun amassed more than $200 million in bribes while in office, and he and his relatives systematically laundered these funds through a complex web of transactions in the United States and Korea,” Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell said in a statement.

Caldwell, of the Justice Department’s criminal division, added that the seizure was part of measures by Washington to “use every available means to deny corrupt foreign officials and their relatives’ safe haven for their assets in the United States.”

Chun, who served as president from 1980 to 1988, was convicted in Korea in 1997 on charges that included accepting bribes from domestic businesses and running slush funds during his seven-year presidency. Korea’s Supreme Court sentenced him to life in prison, which was commuted in 1997, and ordered him to pay a fine worth 220.5 billion won ($216 million).

Last September, Chun and his family agreed to pay off the 167.2 billion won they still owed in criminal fines and gave the state a list of assets it could seize.

The Korean National Assembly in June 2013 also passed what became known as the Chun Doo Hwan Act, which allowed the state to confiscate assets from Chun as well as his family and any associates who had acquired wealth from him.

Washington said that it is working closely with Korea’s Supreme Prosecutors’ Office, the Ministry of Justice and the Seoul Central District Public Prosecutors’ Foreign Criminal Affairs Department to forfeit the corruption proceeds. The FBI is “committed to working with foreign and domestic partners to identify and return those assets to the legitimate owners, in this case [Korea],” said Joseph R. Campbell, assistant director at the FBI.

BY SARAH KIM[sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]

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