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U.S. seeks $700,000 from ex-South Korean president in O.C. home sale

U.S. seeks $700,000 from ex-South Korean president in O.C. home sale
Former South Korean President Chun Doo-Hwan is shown during his arrest in 1995. Federal prosecutors in Los Angeles on Thursday filed a forfeiture claim to seize $700,000 in alleged corruption proceeds. (Kim Jae-Hwan / AFP/Getty Images)

The U.S. government on Thursday filed a civil forfeiture claim in Los Angeles to seize more than $700,000 in alleged corruption proceeds from former South Korean President Chun Doo-hwan, federal prosecutors announced.

The funds came from the sale in February of a Newport Beach home owned by Chun's son, which prosecutors allege was purchased in 2005 with laundered money from Chun's corrupt practices. The former president was convicted by a South Korean court in 1997 of receiving more than $200 million in bribes from Korean corporations.

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Chun, 83, came to power through a military coup in 1979 and served as South Korea's president until 1988. He was later prosecuted on charges of mutiny, treason and bribery and sentenced to life in prison but received a presidential pardon in 1997. He was also convicted of murder for the bloody suppression of student protesters during a 1980 uprising in Kwangju that resulted in hundreds of deaths.

The forfeiture action was made in conjunction with South Korea's Supreme Prosecutor's Office, the Ministry of Justice and the Seoul Central District Prosecutor's Office, authorities said.

"While serving as Korea's president, Chun Doo-hwan betrayed the Korean people by taking over $200 million in bribes, some of which his family members then illegally laundered into the United States," Acting Assistant Atty. Gen. O'Neil said in a statement.

The case was brought through a Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative, a joint effort among federal agencies to target proceeds of corruption overseas.

"The U.S. will not be a safe repository for assets misappropriated by corrupt foreign leaders," said the FBI's Bill L. Lewis, assistant director in charge of the agency's Los Angeles division.

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