The opinion of the court was delivered by: JACK B. WEINSTEIN
Claimant Esperanza Rodriguez De Castro ("Castro"), individually and on behalf of the estate of Heriberto Castro Meza, moves to dismiss this civil forfeiture action against bank accounts in London, England, contending that this court lacks in rem jurisdiction. Because this court has the requisite control over the bank accounts, the motion is denied.
The complaint in this case alleges that Jose Santacruz Londono ("Santacruz") and individuals working with him operate extensive international drug trafficking and money laundering enterprises, involving millions of dollars and multi-kilogram shipments of cocaine smuggled into the United States and distributed in the Eastern District of New York and elsewhere. It also alleges that in order to facilitate these activities the Santacruz organization engages in large-scale financial transactions involving the transfer of substantial sums of money to accounts in the United Kingdom, including the defendant accounts.
The defendant accounts were opened in the names of Heriberto Castro Mesa and Esperanza Rodriguez De Castro, the father-in-law and mother-in-law of Santacruz. The complaint alleges that the accounts were controlled by a member of the Santacruz organization, Franklin Jurado. Jurado was arrested in Luxembourg in June, 1990 for laundering of drug money. In connection with his arrest and the arrest of other money launderers in the Santacruz organization, tens of millions of dollars of alleged drug and money laundering proceeds were frozen in bank accounts worldwide, including $ 12 million that was forfeited in United States v. All Funds, 801 F. Supp. 984 (E.D.N.Y. 1992), aff'd sub nom., United States v. Daccarett, 6 F.3d 37 (2d Cir. 1993), cert. denied, 114 S. Ct. 1294 (1994).
In October 1990, a criminal complaint was filed in the Eastern District of New York against Santacruz charging him with conspiracy to distribute cocaine and conspiracy to launder narcotics proceeds. He has been a fugitive since that time. The government believes, he now is in Cali, Columbia. In 1991, extradition arrangements between Columbia and the United States were terminated. It is thus unlikely that Santacruz will ever be tried in the United States
On July 16, 1993 the instant civil forfeiture action was instituted against the defendant bank accounts in England. On the same date, Chief Magistrate Judge Chrein executed an order directing the Clerk of the Court to issue a warrant of arrest in rem pursuant to Rule C(3) of the Supplemental Rules for Certain Admiralty and Maritime Claims. On July 19, 1993, the Clerk issued a warrant commanding the United States Marshal to attach the defendant accounts. On September 8 and 16, 1993, Martin Comley, a Detective Constable in the United Kingdom, at the request of the United States Marshal served copies of the Warrant and Verified Complaint on the banks holding the defendant accounts in England.
On November 1, 1993, claimant Castro filed a motion to dismiss this action claiming that the Court lacks in rem jurisdiction over the defendant accounts. On March 2, 1994, this court was informed that the claimant Castro had petitioned the High Court of England, asking that its July 30, 1990 order restraining the defendant accounts be discharged on the ground that the Order assumed that the forfeiture proceeding in the United States would be an in personam proceeding accompanying a criminal prosecution, not a civil, in rem forfeiture. This court stayed proceedings pending a decision by the court in England.
On March 18, 1994, the High Court of England issued a holding that "although now based on the civil proceedings in New York, the order will remain in force." J.L. and In the Matter of the Drug Trafficking Offenses Act 1986 (Designated Countries and Territories Order 1990, at 10 (High Court, of justice March 18, 1994).
A. Subject Matter Jurisdiction and Venue
In forfeiture cases, venue has traditionally only been proper in the judicial district in which the property to be forfeited is found. See, e.g., 28 U.S.C. § 1395(b) ("A civil proceeding for the forfeiture of property may be prosecuted in any district where "such property is found.") See also United States v. Contents of Account No. 2033301, 831 F. Supp. 337, 338-39 (S.D.N.Y. 1993). In order for a court to have venue over property outside the United States, the property had to be physically brought into the district. See, e.g., 28 U.S.C. 1395(c) ("A civil proceeding for the forfeiture of property, seized outside any judicial district may be prosecuted in any judicial district into which the property is brought.") See also, United States v. One Caribou Aircraft Registration N-1017-H, 557 F. Supp. 379, 381 (D.P.R. 1983).
Congress, in the last several years, has expanded the forfeiture laws. 18 U.S.C. § 881(j) and § 981(h), both state that venue for a civil forfeiture proceeding is proper in the judicial district in which the defendant owning such property is found or in the judicial district in which the criminal prosecution is brought. see United States v. Contents of Accounts Nos. 3034504504 and 144-07143, 971 F.2d 974, 979 (3d Cir. 1992), cert. denied, 113 S. Ct. 1580 (1993); United States v. 51 Pieces of Real Property Roswell N.M., 17 F.3d 1306, 1311 (10th Cir. 1994). In addition," in October, 1992, Congress amended 28 U.S.C. § 1355(b) to give subject matter jurisdiction and venue to district courts over forfeiture ...