Attorney General Eric Holder and Dominican Prosecutor General Radhamés Jiménez Peña met today in Washington, D.C., to sign a permanent agreement to share forfeited assets between the governments of the United States and the Dominican Republic. The permanent sharing agreement acknowledges the consistent forfeiture-related cooperation that United States authorities have received from the Dominican Republic and creates a more efficient process for sharing assets with the Dominican Republic.
"The steady stream of forfeiture cooperation we receive from our Dominican law enforcement counterparts has been indispensible to our efforts to recover millions of dollars in criminal assets located abroad," Attorney General Holder said. "In a world where criminals increasingly operate across borders, strengthening international partnerships is critical. Today's agreement will serve as a highly beneficial and useful tool for asset sharing in the future."
The permanent agreement requires the United States and the Dominican Republic to return all fraud and theft proceeds for purposes of making victims whole. It also streamlines the asset sharing process by eliminating the need for individual agreements each time assets are shared in recognition of forfeiture assistance provided by the Dominican authorities. In addition, the agreement is reciprocal, allowing for Dominican sharing with the United States.
Assets shared under the agreement must be used by the recipient country in accordance with domestic laws governing the use of forfeited assets. Dominican law provides that forfeited assets be disbursed to the Office of the Prosecutor General; the National Drug Council; the National Counter Drug Directorate; the National Police; and non-government organizations engaged in efforts to prevent drug abuse.
To date, the Department of Justice has shared a total of $8.67 million in forfeited assets with Dominican authorities on four prior occasions since 2002. This includes a case-specific sharing agreement that was signed on Nov. 14, 2011, to share approximately $7.5 million in forfeited assets with the Dominican Office of the Prosecutor General. The November 2011 agreement represents approximately 20 percent of the estimated $37.5 million in forfeited assets located in the Dominican Republic that stem from a conspiracy led by brothers Carlos, Luis and Jose Benitez, who allegedly defrauded the U.S. Medicare program of approximately $80 million.
The permanent agreement was negotiated on behalf of the United States by the Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section's International Unit in the Justice Department's Criminal Division and the Office of International Affairs in the Justice Department's Criminal Division, in cooperation with the FBI's Attaché in the Dominican Republic and the Department of State.