The Korea Herald


Prosecution mulls forfeiture of gains from embezzlement

By Kim So-hyun

Published : May 2, 2018 - 17:29

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Prosecutors are looking at ways to forfeit criminal proceeds from embezzlement, in addition to bribes, drawing attention to whether more of former President Lee Myung-bak’s assets will be put on hold.

The Seoul Central District Court last month approved the prosecution’s request to freeze 11.1 billion won ($10.3 million) worth of Lee’s assets, matching the amount of kickbacks he is accused of having received.

The court said the decision forbids Lee from making any transactions on those assets, including selling of properties, until the court delivers a final ruling.

As the court limited the forfeiture to the amount of bribes Lee allegedly took, only his home in Nonhyeon-dong in Seoul and a factory site in Bucheon were put on hold.

(Yonhap) (Yonhap)

If the 35 billion won Lee allegedly embezzled becomes subject to confiscation, the court could freeze the assets he owns under borrowed names such as the shares in auto parts manufacturer DAS.

A department for forfeiture of criminal proceeds under the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office is currently reviewing ways to improve an act on special cases concerning the confiscation and return of property acquired through corrupt activities.

The act is about expropriating illicit gains from corruption and returning them to the victims. It took effect in April 2008, but embezzlement, which constitutes corruption, has rarely been subject to forfeiture.

The general view within the prosecution has been that the state shouldn’t interfere in the return of gains from embezzlement to its victims as it is a private matter, unlike bribery, which has no specific victim.

However, after Prosecutor General Moon Moo-il took office in July last year, some prosecutors began voicing the need for the state to actively confiscate proceeds from crimes that have victims to better serve social justice and fairness.

Moon is known to be supportive of the view. The department for forfeiture of criminal proceeds was set up in February, and has been focusing on research related to expropriating embezzled money.

“Forfeiture of criminal proceeds from embezzlement is theoretically possible under the current law,” a prosecution official said.

“Research is underway to enhance the rules for actual implementation.”

Lee, who served as president from 2008 to 2013, was arrested in March and indicted last month on 16 charges including bribery, abuse of power and embezzlement.

He is accused of embezzling about 35 billion won from DAS and using the money for political and personal purposes.

By Kim So-hyun (