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Press Release

United States Wins Civil Forfeiture Suit Against Taiwanese National Accused of Laundering Funds Through the United States to Assist Syrian and North Korean Regimes With Procuring Goods

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Columbia

            WASHINGTON – A federal judge has ordered the forfeiture of $148,500 in blocked funds associated with a Taiwan-based company that allegedly laundered United States dollars in business dealings with North Korean and Syrian entities, announced U.S. Attorney Jessie K. Liu and Jeffrey S. Sallet, Special Agent-in-Charge of the FBI’s Chicago Division.

            The Honorable Richard J. Leon granted the government’s motion for summary judgment in a civil forfeiture case targeting funds held in the name of Trans Multi Mechanics Company Limited (Trans Multi). The complaint alleged that Trans Multi and its owner, Tsai Hsien-Tsai, also known as Alex Tsai, laundered United States dollars to further his exportation of goods for the benefit of North Korean and Syrian entities involved in the respective regimes’ weapons programs. The complaint sought to forfeit funds laundered by Tsai.

            “The Court found that these blocked funds were the product of Tsai’s attempts to sell tools to a Syrian company using U.S. Dollars and a series of front companies,” said U.S. Attorney Liu. “Sanctions laws are critical to our national security and foreign policy interests, and this case demonstrates that we will seek significant remedies against those companies that violate them.”

            "Attempts by individuals such as Tsai to circumvent economic sanctions through money laundering undermine foreign policy established to keep the United States and its citizens safe,” said Special Agent in Charge Sallet. “This judgment underscores the FBI’s commitment to national security and serves as a reminder that the FBI will work tirelessly to bring offenders to justice."

            The complaint was filed in June 2016, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. According to the complaint, Tsai frequently transacted with companies in North Korea and Syria which assisted with each regime’s respective weapons programs. On Jan. 16, 2009, the U.S. Department of Treasury Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) designated Tsai, his wife, and two companies he controlled. The designation noted that Tsai used these companies to transact with North Korean proliferators of weapons of mass destruction.

            Between April and June of 2012, OFAC blocked $148,500 in the process of being transferred from a bank account in Hong Kong controlled by Tsai to a Taiwanese bank account in the name of his daughter as it traveled through the United States correspondent banking system. 

            Tsai was arrested in Estonia in May 2013 and subsequently extradited to the United States.  He pled guilty in October 2014, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States. As part of his plea agreement, Tsai admitted that he had used Trans Multi, among other companies, to continue his exporting business notwithstanding the OFAC designation against him.  He also admitted that he exported machinery and tools relating to weapons of mass destruction, and that these goods were produced in the United States and purchased with U.S. Dollars. After serving a two-year prison sentence, Tsai was deported to Taiwan, where he remains today.

            In his ruling, which was issued on March 29, 2019, Judge Leon agreed that there was no genuine dispute of material fact with respect to the government’s complaint, and that the Court  could “easily conclude” that the funds involved in this suit stemmed from Tsai’s attempts to evade sanctions.  The United States is thus entitled to the funds.

            The FBI’s Chicago Division is investigating the case. Assistant U.S Attorneys Zia M. Faruqui, Arvind Lal, and Brian Hudak are prosecuting the case, with assistance from Legal Assistant Jessica McCormick and former Paralegal Specialist Toni Anne Donato, and special assistance from Joshua Stanton, who served as a consultant.

Updated April 3, 2019

Asset Forfeiture
Press Release Number: 19-42