On January 13, the DOJ announced the initiation of a civil forfeiture proceeding related to the proceeds of alleged bribes to a Honduran government official. DOJ filed a civil forfeiture complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana seeking the forfeiture of nine pieces of real property located in the New Orleans area and valued at more than $1.5 million. According to the complaint, the property was purchased in 2012 by the former Executive Director of the Honduran Institute of Social Security (HISS) and his brother using funds that were traceable to more than $2 million in bribes paid to him by a Honduran information technology company. While at HISS, the Executive Director allegedly solicited the bribes in exchange for prioritizing and expediting payments owed to the company under a $19 million contract with HISS. He also allegedly instructed the company to pay bribes to two members of the HISS Board of Directors who oversaw the contract. The company allegedly sought to conceal the illicit payments by sending the bribes through an affiliate company. According to the complaint, the proceeds of the bribes were eventually laundered into the United States and used to purchase the real property.
According to the DOJ, a criminal judge in Tegucigalpa, Honduras issued an arrest warrant for the former Executive Director in February 2014 on grounds that he had violated Honduran laws prohibiting abuse of authority, misappropriation of public funds, and fraud. In September 2014, he was arrested and indicted in Honduras for bribery and money laundering.
The DOJ complaint was brought under the DOJ Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative, which was launched in 2010 to combat foreign official corruption and recover public funds for their intended use. In its press release, the DOJ observed that the complaint “highlights how the Criminal Division’s Kleptocracy Initiative, with our network of law enforcement partners around the globe, will trace and recover the ill-gotten gains of corrupt officials.”