Some Bribes to Dirty Korean President Chun Doo-hwan were Laundered in Newport Beach

Chun Doo-hwan and his wife Lee SoonJa prepare to leave Washington, D.C., on Feb. 4, 1981.
Chun Doo-hwan and his wife Lee SoonJa prepare to leave Washington, D.C., on Feb. 4, 1981.
U.S. Department of Defense

Proceeds from the sale of a Newport Beach home are part the $1,126,951.45 in forfeited assets the Department of Justice has returned to the government of the Republic of Korea in connection with a public corruption scheme orchestrated in the 1990s by former President Chun Doo-hwan.

The forfeited assets, which come after legal filings in Los Angeles and Philadelphia as part of the Department of Justice's Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative, equal the amounts laundered in those U.S. regions by Chun's family members and associates, according to the DOJ.

In February 2014, FBI agents seized $726,951.45 in an escrow account that represented the net proceeds from the sale of a Newport Beach house that President Chun's son, Chun Jae Yong, had purchased in 2005 with bribes given to his father. The remainder of the forfeited assets represent the amount Chun's associates invested in a Pennsylvania company.

"The return of these assets is a powerful vindication of the rule of law, and an important victory for the people of the Republic of Korea," Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch says in a statement.

The return also represents a drop in the beokis: In 1997, a criminal court in Korea convicted its former president of accepting more than $200 million in bribes from Korean corporations and ordered him to pay about $212 million in criminal penalties. That led to a money laundering investigation by the Korean Supreme Prosecutor's Office and, with the assistance of American investigative agencies, the discovery that some bribery proceeds wound up in U.S. bank accounts.

Email: mcoker@ocweekly.com. Twitter: @MatthewTCoker. Follow OC Weekly on Twitter @ocweekly or on Facebook!

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