Britain’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) can seize more than $8 million of illicit cash linked to a massive Brazilian corruption scandal involving state-run oil company Petrobras, a London court ruled on Friday.
The SFO successfully applied to confiscate $7.7 million and 700,000 pounds held in the London bank account of former Petrobras employee Mario Ildeu de Miranda, who was jailed in Brazil in relation to the long-running Operation Car Wash corruption probe.
The agency said the sum is the largest amount ever seized by the SFO from a single bank account.
Its director Lisa Osofsky said in a statement: "Over two years, we unpicked a complex web of transactions across the world – exposing Mr Miranda’s attempt to conceal criminal proceeds and ensuring that the UK cannot be used as a hiding place for criminal assets."
Miranda’s lawyer Abdullah Al-Yunusi told Reuters: "Our client is obviously disappointed with the judgment." He added: "We are, as a team, digesting this with him and considering all options, including an appeal."
Miranda, 71, was convicted in 2019 of 37 counts of money laundering for receiving around $25 million from Brazilian construction company Odebrecht, the SFO said in court filings for a hearing last month.
He then paid out $11.5 million to Petrobras employees and laundered the rest through his other bank accounts in countries including the Bahamas, the United Arab Emirates, Malta, and Portugal, before depositing the cash in London, the SFO said.
Miranda argued that he did not know the money from Odebrecht, which in 2020 changed its name to Novonor after its name became synonymous with graft, was a bribe.
But on Friday Judge Briony Clarke said in a written ruling that the money in Miranda's London bank account came from unlawful conduct and could therefore be recovered by the SFO.
(Reuters - Reporting by Sam Tobin; Editing by Jan Harvey)