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07/08/2016

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US returns $1.5 million in forfeitures to family of former president of Taiwan

WASHINGTON – U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Department of Justice announced yesterday that the U.S. is returning approximately $1.5 million to Taiwan, the proceeds of the sale of a forfeited New York condominium and a Virginia residence that the U.S. alleged in its complaint were purchased with the proceeds of bribes paid to the family of Taiwan’s former President Chen Shui-Bian.

Executive Associate Director Peter T. Edge of HSI and Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division made the announcement.

According to the civil forfeiture complaints filed in this case, Yuanta Securities Co. Ltd. paid a bribe of 200 million New Taiwan dollars (equivalent to approximately $6 million U.S. dollars) to former First Lady Wu Shu-Jen in 2004, during former President Chen Shui-Bian’s administration. The bribe was allegedly paid to ensure that the president would use his power so that the Taiwan authorities would not oppose Yuanta’s bid to acquire a financial holding company. The former first family used Hong Kong and Swiss bank accounts, shell companies and a St. Kitts and Nevis trust to transfer the bribe proceeds needed to purchase the properties in Keswick, Virginia, and New York. The properties were owned by the former first family of Taiwan through two limited liability companies. In October 2012, U.S. District Courts in Virginia and in New York entered final forfeiture judgments against these two properties without opposition by the record owners. The U.S. then sold these two properties and obtained approximately $1.5 million in proceeds, which is being returned to Taiwan. 

“After many years of collaborative work, we are happy to return these funds to their rightful owners,” said Edge. “This is part of an ongoing effort by HSI to identify and seize illegal assets in the United States obtained by corrupt foreign leaders who abuse our financial systems in order to conceal the illicit proceeds of their crimes. HSI special agents in our 62 offices in 43 countries will continue to work with our domestic offices and international law enforcement partners to hold these individuals accountable.”

“The Kleptocracy Initiative was established to prevent corrupt leaders from using the United States as a safe haven for their ill-gotten gains,” said Caldwell. “We are committed to rooting out foreign official corruption and preventing corrupt officials from enjoying their spoils in the United States. We appreciate the cooperation of Taiwan law enforcement in this matter.”

ICE HSI investigated the case, with assistance from the agency’s attaché in Hong Kong, HSI Miami's Foreign Corruption Investigation Group and the Taiwan Supreme Prosecutors Office’s Special Investigations Division. Trial Attorney Jennifer Wallis and former Deputy Chief Linda Samuel of the Criminal Division’s Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section (AFMLS) prosecuted the case. The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs also provided valuable assistance. 

The Justice Department’s Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative is carried out by a dedicated team of prosecutors in AFMLS, 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 kleptocracy@usdoj.gov.

HSI’s Foreign Corruption Investigations Group targets corrupt foreign officials around the world who 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.

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Last Reviewed/Updated: 07/11/2016