The UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO) may seize more than $8 million in illegal cash linked to a corruption scandal involving Petrobras uncovered by Operation Lava Jato, a London court ruled on Friday.
The agency requested the seizure of US$7.7 million and £700,000 in the London bank account of former Petrobras employee Mario Ildue de Miranda, who was arrested in Brazil as part of Lava Jato.
The agency said it was the largest amount ever seized by the SFO from a single bank account.
SFO director Lisa Osofsky said in a statement: “Over two years we have unraveled a complex web of transactions around the world, exposed Mr Miranda’s attempt to hide criminal evidence and ensured that the UK cannot be used as a place to hide criminal assets.”
Miranda’s lawyer, Abdullah al-Younisi, told Reuters: “Our client is obviously disappointed in the verdict”, adding that “we, as a team, have digested this with him and considered all options, including an appeal”.
Miranda was convicted in 2019 of 37 counts of money laundering for allegedly receiving about $25 million from construction company Odebrecht.
He then paid $11.5 million to Petrobras officials and swindled the remaining money through his other bank accounts in countries including the Bahamas, UAE, Malta and Portugal, before depositing it in London, the SFO said.
Miranda argued that he did not know the money was a bribe from Odebrecht, which changed its name to Novonor in 2020.
But on Friday, Judge Briony Clarke said in a written decision that the money in Miranda’s London bank account came from illegal conduct and could therefore be recovered by the SFO.
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