The Department of Justice has forfeited a Manhattan condominium and a Virginia residence – with a combined value of approximately $ 2.1 million – purchased with the proceeds of alleged bribes paid to the family of the former President of Taiwan, Shui-Bian Chen, as part of the department’s Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative. Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division announced the forfeiture today with U.S . Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton.
On Oct. 23, 2012, U.S. District Judge Norman M oon of the Western District of Virginia entered a final forfeiture judgment against a residence in Keswick, Va., and On Oct. 24, 2012, U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest in the Southern District of New York entered a final forfeiture judgment against a condominium in Manhattan. Both properties were previously owned by the former first family of Taiwan through a British Virgin Islands shell company.
Today, ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) took possession of the Virginia property. The title of the Manhattan condominium has been vested through court order to the government.
According to the civil forfeiture complaints filed in this case, during former President Chen’s administration, Yuanta Securities Co. Ltd. paid a bribe of 200 million New Taiwan dollars (equivalent to approximately $6 million USD) to former first lady Sue-Jen Wu in 2004 to ensure that the Taiwan government would not oppose Yuanta’s bid to acquire a financial holding company.
The former first family used Hong Kong and Swiss bank accounts, British Virgin Island companies and a St. Kitts and Nevis trust to purchase the two properties. One of the shell companies, Avallo Limited, which held title to both properties through U.S. domestic companies, settled both forfeiture actions under terms that provide for the sale of the property and forfeiture to the U.S. government of approximately 85 percent of the net proceeds from the sale of both properties.
“The Kleptocracy Initiative was established to prevent corrupt leaders from using the United States as a safe haven for their ill-gotten gains,” said Assistant Attorney General Breuer. “The former president of Taiwan’s family allegedly accepted millions in bribes in exchange for official action favoring Yuanta Securities, and we have now taken possession of two valuable properties purchased with their alleged spoils. We are committed to using every tool available to root out foreign official corruption.”
“This most recent seizure of luxury properties in New York City and Keswick, Va. belonging to the son of the former President of Taiwan Shui-Bian Chen is part of a continued effort by Homeland Security Investigations special agents to identify, locate, and seize properties and accounts in the United States belonging to him and his family,” said ICE Director Morton. “HSI will continue to find and seize the U.S. assets of foreign corrupt officials who try to use our country to conceal the illicit proceeds and profits of their crimes.”
The case was prosecuted by Deputy Chief Linda Samuel and Trial Attorney Jennifer Wallis of the Criminal Division’s Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section. The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs provided valuable assistance. The case was investigated by ICE- HSI’s Foreign Corruption Investigations Group, the HSI Miami Asset Identification and Removal Group and the HSI Attaché Hong Kong, with assistance from the Taiwan Ministry of Justice, Special Investigations Division.
This case is part of the Justice Department’s Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative. This initiative is carried out by a dedicated team of prosecutors in the 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 those harmed.
Individuals with information about possible proceeds of foreign corruption located in or laundered through institutions in the United States should contact federal law enforcement or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org .
HSI’s Foreign Corruption Investigations Group in Miami targets corrupt foreign officials around the world that attempt to utilize U.S. financial institutions to launder illicit funds. The group conducts 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.