On Monday, November 9, 2015, Korean Minister of Justice Kim Hyun-Woong met with U.S. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch to finalize the return transfer of US $1.1 million of forfeited assets to the Republic of Korea. The assets, forfeited in two U.S. civil forfeiture actions settled earlier this year, were linked to a corruption scheme organized by former Korean President Chun Doo Hwan.
As reported in the March 2015 Red Notice, a criminal court in Korea convicted Chun in 1997 of taking more than US $200 million in bribes during his presidency. According to the DOJ, the former president’s family members and associates laundered profits from his public corruption scheme into the United States. The forfeited assets recovered by the DOJ are just a fraction of the approximately US $212 million Chun was ordered to pay in restitution.
In 2013, the Anti-Corruption Division of the Korean Supreme Prosecutor’s Office and prosecutors from the DOJ’s Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative launched investigations into the potential laundering of bribery proceeds into the United States by Chun and his associates. Kleptocracy prosecutors worked across federal agencies and with Korean law enforcement agencies on the investigation. This marks the first instance of the United States returning laundered money to South Korea since their Treaty on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters came into force in 1997. According to the Korea Times, it also marks the first successful case in which the Korean Ministry of Justice recovered assets of a high-profile public official hidden overseas.