344 F.3d 399 (3rd Cir. 2003), 02-1839, Contents of Account Number 03001288 v. U.S.

Docket Nº:02-1839
Citation:344 F.3d 399
Party Name:Contents of Account Number 03001288 v. U.S.
Case Date:September 25, 2003
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
 
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Page 399

344 F.3d 399 (3rd Cir. 2003)

CONTENTS OF ACCOUNT NUMBER 03001288, Held in the Name of Tasneem Jalal Located at Union National Bank, Rashidiya Branch, Deira-Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Contents of Account Number 01123121673 Held in the Name of Tasneem Jalal Located at Habib Bank AG Zurich Sharjah Branch, United Arab Emirates; Contents of Account Number 01120121673, Held in the Name of Tasneem Jalal Located at Habib Bank AG Zurich, Sharjah Branch, United Arab Emirates; Tasneem Jalal

v.

UNITED STATES of America Tasneem Jalal, Appellant.
No. 02-1839.

United States Court of Appeals, Third Circuit

September 25, 2003

Argued on Dec. 12, 2002.

Page 400

Martin L. Schmukler (Argued), New York, NY, for Appellant.

Peter W. Gaeta (Argued), Office of the United States Attorney, Newark, NJ, for Appellees.

Before FUENTES, STAPLETON and O'KELLEY, [*] Circuit Judges.

OPINION

FUENTES, Circuit Judge.

Appellant Tasneem Jalal ("Jalal") appeals an order of the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey denying his motion to dismiss, or in the alternative, for summary judgment on this

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civil action brought by the United States for the forfeiture of funds located in three bank accounts in the United Arab Emirates ("U.A.E."). The United States seeks forfeiture of the funds because they are the proceeds of illegal heroin trafficking. Jalal contends that the action should be dismissed because it was not filed within the five-year statute of limitations period under 19 U.S.C. § 1621. Because the statute of limitations was tolled during the time the funds were absent from the United States, we conclude the statute did not run against the Government's forfeiture claims against Jalal's accounts. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the District Court.

I. Background

On or about August 19, 1992, Special Agents of the New Jersey Field Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration ("DEA") arrested Jalal for his participation in the delivery of 250 grams of heroin into New Jersey. During the execution of a search warrant at Jalal's home, DEA Agents found three passports in the name of "Tasnin [sic] Jalal," various forms of identification, and the records of bank accounts in the United States, Pakistan, and the U.A.E. Specifically, the search yielded deposit slips for the three Defendant Accounts in the U.A.E., which altogether contain approximately $1.8 million Dirhams. 1 The bank records indicate that the Defendant Accounts were funded between November 24, 1991 and April 1, 1992.

Jalal was subsequently indicted for Conspiracy to Distribute and Possess Heroin in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846, and Possession with Intent to Distribute Heroin in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841. He pleaded guilty to both counts on October 15, 1992. In the course of his cooperation with the Government, Jalal admitted that he had been engaged in the trafficking of heroin from Pakistan for the last sixteen years. Although all deposits to the Defendant bank accounts had been made during the time period in which Jalal was engaged in heroin trafficking and although he had no other legitimate source of income during that period, Jalal claimed that the funds derived from the sale of real estate in Pakistan and gold trading in Dubai.2

In October 1992, agents of the DEA contacted law enforcement officials in the U.A.E. to provide information concerning Jalal and to inquire whether the Defendant Accounts could be frozen under U.A.E. law. The Dubai Police obtained a court order freezing the accounts while the investigation continued.

Meanwhile, on June 29, 1993, Jalal was sentenced to 108 months imprisonment. Upon completion of his sentence, Jalal, a national of Pakistan, was committed to the custody of the Immigration and Naturalization Service. The INS deported Jalal to Pakistan on September 26, 2000.

On August 2, 1994, DEA representatives met with officials of the Dubai Police. The officials advised the DEA that they were optimistic that the Dubai court would entertain a motion to allow the Dubai Police to seize the accounts if probable cause could be established that the funds in the account were generated by narcotics trafficking. DEA representatives held a similar meeting in Sharjah regarding the accounts located there.

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During the same general time frame, Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah had submitted a collective report regarding money laundering in the U.A.E. to the Ministry of the Interior, the first step for passage of a federal law. The DEA believed that officials in the U.A.E. were going to use the Defendant Accounts to establish a precedent. However, in November 1994, DEA representatives learned that no further unilateral action would be taken by U.A.E. law enforcement officials. The only alternatives would be to pursue forfeiture through diplomatic channels or await passage of asset seizure/forfeiture legislation in the U.A.E.

At a meeting on December 12, 1994, the Deputy Attorney General of the U.A.E. informed an attorney of the United States Department of Justice ("DOJ"), as well as other United States officials present, that the U.A.E. was not in full compliance with the Vienna Convention of 1998 concerning money laundering, but that he expected passage of a U.A.E. forfeiture law within six months. Based on this conversation, the DOJ attorney believed that the U.A.E. would not act on the Jalal matter until passage of this legislation. On June 30, 1995, the DOJ Attorney wrote to the U.S. Embassy in the U.A.E. inquiring whether the U.A.E. had enacted the forfeiture legislation.

On November 21, 1995, the Office of International Affairs of the DOJ made a formal treaty request to the U.A.E. pursuant to the United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances. Almost four years later, on September 27, 1999, the Senior Legal Advisor at the U.A.E. Ministry of Foreign Affairs informed U.S. officials that, before the U.A.E. government could comply with the DOJ's request to seize and forfeit...

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