According to the DOJ press release, the funds are the United States’ share of a civil forfeiture investigation into a complex global conspiracy that sought to violate U.S.-imposed international economic sanctions on Iran. The alleged conspiracy involved several Iranian citizens and a U.S. citizen, who purportedly transferred an estimated $1 billion worth of Iranian-owned assets to accounts across the globe.
From 2011 to 2014, the conspirators are accused of defrauding South Korean banks by submitting false documents that allegedly showed unspecified Iranian companies were doing legitimate business with companies in South Korea. Based on this information, the conspirators were able to unlawfully transfer approximately $1 billion worth of Iranian-owned funds out of South Korea.
The alleged American conspirator, identified as Kenneth Zong, was indicted in Alaska in December 2016 for 47 counts of violating the Iranian Transaction and Sanctions Regulations (ITSR) and the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), providing unlawful services to the Iranian government, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and money laundering. The alleged conspirator is currently being held in South Korea, where he is reportedly serving a five-year sentence for breaking South Korean law as part of the same alleged scheme.
The conspirators allegedly transferred the funds to bank accounts all over the world, including Anchorage, Alaska. In 2018, Mitchell Zong, son of the accused, was sentenced to two and half years in prison for his alleged role in laundering approximately $968,000 of the funds.
In addition to the prosecution of father and son, the DOJ has filed a forfeiture complaint seeking to seize cash held in a sovereign wealth fund in the United Arab Emirates. These funds, which are allegedly traceable to the Iranian conspiracy, were part of a down-payment made by the Iranian co-conspirators for the purchase of a hotel in Tbilisi, Georgia in 2011 and 2012.
The agreement announced today resolves that forfeiture case with a proposed order that $7 million be forfeited to the U.S. government. The money will reportedly be allocated to the Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund, which was established by Congress to provide compensation to victims of international state-sponsored terrorism, including victims of the U.S. embassy hostage situation that occurred in Iran in 1979.
Civil asset forfeiture is a legal process used by prosecutors and law enforcement agencies to seize property they suspect is connected to criminal activity, sometimes without even charging the property owner for a crime. Civil forfeiture can happen to anyone, and if you’re a victim of an unwarranted seizure by police or federal agents, then you should immediately contact an experienced civil asset forfeiture attorney. An attorney can help you initiate the recovery process and guide you through all the steps you need to take.
Nationwide Federal Civil Asset Forfeiture Attorney
Have police or federal agents seized your property using civil forfeiture? Contact Brian Silber, P.A. to set up a free initial consultation and work with an experienced nationwide federal civil asset forfeiture attorney.