Former South Korean dictator’s family forfeits $1.2M to US

March 4, 2015

Ex-President Chun Doo-hwan.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Relatives of South Korea’s corrupt former dictator agreed Wednesday to forfeit $1.2 million in bribery proceeds laundered in the U.S., federal prosecutors said.

With the settlement filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, the U.S. and South Korea have collected $28.7 million in a joint investigation into bribes that ex-President Chun Doo-hwan tried to hide, the Department of Justice said.

Chun, a former army general who seized power in a 1979 coup and ruled the country with an iron fist until 1988, was arrested in 1995 and sentenced to death for corruption, mutiny and treason. He was pardoned in 1997 and ordered to pay back about $203 million in bribes he collected from businessmen. But he only returned a portion because he said he was broke.

Chun and his family laundered corruption proceeds in South Korea and the United States through a web of other people and shell companies, prosecutors said.

The forfeiture settlement comes from a Newport Beach, California, house the family sold last year for $2.1 million and an investment they made in a Philadelphia limited partnership. Nearly $700,000 used as a down payment when his son, Jae Yong Chun, purchased the house in 2005 came from Chun’s secret fund, according to court documents.

“The U.S. will not idly stand by and serve as a money laundering haven for foreign officials to hide corrupt activities,” FBI Assistant Director in Charge David Bowdich said.

Family members said two years ago that they would surrender real estate, paintings and other assets to pay back the South Korean government. An associate of Chun’s provided $27.5 million toward the money he owes, making up the majority of the money recovered by the U.S. and South Korea.

A Washington lawyer representing the family wouldn’t comment on the settlement signed by Chun’s son, daughter-in-law, Sang Ah Park, and her mother, Yang Ja Yoon.

Prosecutors will recommend turning over the forfeited money to South Korea.