LOS ANGELES - Taiwan has agreed to freeze a bank account containing some $16 million, allegedly laundered money linked to Mexican drug cartels, US officials said Friday.
The action is the first time Taiwan has helped in a significant asset seizure as part of a US-based criminal investigation, said the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
On Wednesday this week, some 1,000 police staged mass dawn raids in Los Angeles, seizing some $60 million in cash and arresting nine people in what was dubbed "Operation Fashion Police," in the city's garment district.
Police also executed dozens of search warrants on businesses suspected of using so-called "Black Market Peso Exchange" (BMPE) schemes to launder narcotics proceeds for groups including the notorious Sinaloa cartel.
The $15.6 million seized in Taiwan were part of assets police believe stem from the money-laundering operations. In addition, three homes in the LA area worth a combined $10 million were ordered seized.
"This case ... clearly shows that the Department of Homeland Security will follow the trail of criminal proceeds wherever it leads, whether it's around the block or around the world," said Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson.
"With the help of our Taiwanese law enforcement partners, these seizures not only deny criminals their profits, they also disrupt their ability to further fund their criminal activity," he added in a statement.
The Taiwanese seizure was finalized between the Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) unit, the US Attorney's Office in LA and the the Taiwanese Ministry of Justice, the ICE statement said.