The United States is seeking to take over two properties owned by former Taiwanese president Chen Shui-bian and his wife, dealing yet another blow to the graft-tainted former leader, who is still appealing against his corruption conviction. In a statement released on Wednesday, the US Justice Department said it had filed civil forfeiture complaints against properties in New York and Virginia, which represent a portion of illegal bribes paid to the former president and his wife, Wu Shu-chen. According to the complaints, in 2005 and 2006, Taiwan's Yuanta Securities Co paid a bribe of NT$200 million (HK$50 million) to Wu, then the first lady, to ensure that Taiwanese authorities would not interfere with its acquisition of additional shares and to attempt to establish a relationship with Chen. It said Wu had orchestrated the movement of funds from Taiwan by using shell companies, created in the British Virgin Islands and on the island of Nevis - also in the Caribbean - which held Swiss bank accounts controlled by her son, Chen Chih-chung, and his wife, Huang Jui-ching. It said a portion of the bribe proceeds were then transferred from Switzerland to the United States and used to buy a condominium in Manhattan and a house in Keswick, Virginia. The complaints said Chen Chih-chung and Huang, who used to live in the US, had returned to Taiwan in August 2008 to face money-laundering charges based on their participation in this and other schemes. Chen Chih-chung was later sentenced to 14 months in prison and Huang to 12 months. Chen Shui-bian and Wu were convicted by Taipei District Court last year of embezzling special state funds, accepting bribes, money-laundering, document forgery and other offences. They were sentenced to life imprisonment. They appealed to the Taiwan High Court, which upheld the convictions but reduced their sentences to 20 years last month. The case is now pending before the Supreme Court. John Morton, Homeland Security director for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said the forfeiture complaint 'serves as a warning to those corrupt foreign officials who abuse their power for personal financial gain and then attempt to place those funds in the US financial system'. The Justice Department said it was working closely with the Taiwan Supreme Prosecutors' Office's special investigation division to gather and exchange evidence regarding the money-laundering that took place in this case to support the forfeiture of these properties. Although the special investigation division welcomed the US move, saying it was made in line with the mutual judicial co-operation agreed by the two sides in the absence of official ties, Taiwan's Foreign Ministry said yesterday that it respected the US' decision and would provide the necessary data requested. But Chen's son cried foul. 'The money used to procure the properties was political contributions donated to my father, so there were no legal infractions in the deals,' he said.