SW Legal studies in Business

U.S. Court Has In Rem Jurisdiction to Order Seizure of Illegal Funds in Spanish Bank
Description Court held that under federal law, and because of a treaty of mutual legal assistance between Spain and the U.S., the court had in rem jurisdiction to order the seizure by the U.S. government of funds deposited in a Spanish bank by a convicted drug dealer in the U.S.
Topic International Law
Key Words In rem Jurisdiction; Treaty on Mutual Legal Assistance; Criminal Law; Forfeiture
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Matta, a citizen of Spain, is serving three life sentences in federal prison in the U.S. for major drug trafficking. The government identified three bank accounts in Banco Espanol, a Spanish bank, that contain money deposited by Matta from his drug dealing. Under a federal law that gives the government power to seize illegally obtained funds located in other nations, the government brought an in rem proceeding to effect forfeiture of all funds in the banks. Matta's wife opposed the forfeiture, contending that the court did not have subject matter jurisdiction over the bank accounts.
Decision

"The Treaty on Mutual Legal Assistance between the U.S. and the Kingdom of Spain ... provides for mutual assistance including 'immobilizing assets' and 'assistance in procedures related to forfeiture.'" The record shows "that the U.S. has received assistance from and worked in conjunction with Spanish authorities in connection with the investigation and prosecution of Matta for many years. The Spanish government has fulfilled numerous of its requests-and declined none-with respect to the seizure and forfeiture of the defendant bank accounts, in effect acting as an agent of the U.S. for purposes of the forfeiture." The government of Spain has submitted an affidavit indicating an intent to comply with any order issued by this court. The defendant's property is to be seized.

Citation U.S. v. All Funds in Account Nos. 747.034/278, 141 F.Supp.2d 548 (D. D.C., 2001)

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