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Peter E. Fisch and Mitchell L. Berg

Asset forfeiture is a process by which the federal government of the United States may seize, without compensation, any privately-owned real or personal property that facilitated or was otherwise involved in the commission of certain types of criminal activities. The government may initiate forfeiture proceedings in either civil or criminal court depending on the underlying violation, and civil and criminal forfeitures are governed by distinct sets of statutory rules. While asset forfeiture is commonly thought of as applying to personal property, such as a vehicle used to illegally transport narcotics, this article will discuss its application to real property. Consider the high-profile seizure of the midtown-Manhattan skyscraper at 650 Fifth Avenue: in what is being called the largest terrorism-related civil forfeiture in U.S. history, the federal government seized the billion-dollar property after a jury concluded that its owners had violated monetary sanctions against Iran and had engaged in money laundering schemes.[1]

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