Director of Korean Earthquake Research Center Convicted of Money Laundering

The director of South Korea's Earthquake Research Center at the Korea Institute of Geoscience and Mineral Resources was laundering bribes that he received from two seismological companies based in California and England through the U.S. banking system, according to DOJ.

The director of South Korea's Earthquake Research Center at the Korea Institute of Geoscience and Mineral Resources has been convicted of money laundering following a four-day jury trial, the Department of Justice announced, saying he was laundering bribes that he received from two seismological companies based in California and England through the U.S. banking system.

Heon-Cheol Chi), age 59, of South Korea, was convicted of one count of transacting in criminally derived property, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1957. His sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 2 before the U.S. District Judge John F. Walter of the Central District of California. Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department's Criminal Division, Acting U.S. Attorney Sandra R. Brown for the Central District of California, and Assistant Director in Charge Deirdre Fike of the FBI's Los Angeles Field Office announced the conviction. The charges alleged that the funds Chi laundered were proceeds derived through violations of South Korea's bribery law, according to DOJ.

"International corruption undermines the rule of law, threatens our national security, and harms honest companies who are playing by the rules," said Blanco. "As this case demonstrates, the Criminal Division will hold responsible the companies and individuals who are paying bribes to foreign government officials, and the foreign government officials themselves. For the second time in recent months, the Criminal Division has convicted a foreign official who solicited bribes and then laundered the illicit proceeds in the United States. We will continue to hold such individuals responsible and accountable."

Brown said Chi "used a bank account here in Southern California to conceal over one million dollars in bribe money obtained through the abuse of his public position. This conviction sends a message that should be heard around the world."

DOJ's news release on the conviction said evidence presented at trial showed that between at least 2009 and 2015, Chi abused his official position at KIGAM to demand and receive more than $1 million in bribes from two seismological companies in exchange for providing them with unfair business advantages in the South Korean seismological market, and that he advocated the purchase and use of equipment from these two companies by KIGAM and other South Korean customers and gave them market intelligence and inside information, including confidential information about their competitors and the KIGAM bidding process. "The evidence also showed that Chi directed that his bribe payments be paid in cash or wired to his personal bank account in Glendora, California. From that account, Chi transferred approximately half of those bribe payments to an investment account he held in New York City and spent approximately 70 percent of the remaining funds back in South Korea, where he resided and worked, according to the evidence," DOJ reported.

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