On 17 March 2023 the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) recovered more than $7,699,204 from the convicted money launderer, Mario lldeu de Miranda (Mr Miranda) after their investigation revealed he had channelled the proceeds of crime through multiple international bank accounts using a variety of different company names. To date this is the largest amount seized by the SFO in a single bank account.
In 2019 Mr Miranda, aged 71 was convicted of 37 counts of Money Laundering in Brazil for his involvement with ‘Operation Car Wash’ in which Brazilian authorities uncovered extensive and systemic bribery centred around the state-owned oil company Petrobras. At the time, Mr Miranda, a former executive at Petrobras, was sentenced to six years imprisonment and ordered to pay $24,750,000 in Brazil. This financial order pertained to the contract between Petrobras and construction giant the Odebrecht Group (Odebrecht).
It was alleged that Odebrecht bribed Petrobras state officials and politicians. Mr Miranda was said to be one of the ‘financial operators’ who received $24,749,975 from Odebrecht and made onward payments of more than $11 million to Petrobras employees.
The remaining balance of nearly $14 million was allegedly laundered through numerous bank accounts across various countries in an attempt to hide their origin. In 2020, the Brazilian construction company changed its name from Odebrecht to Novonor in an attempt to dissociate itself from its previous name which started to become associated with corruption.
The SFO's involvement
In August 2020 the SFO froze a UK bank account that contained over $7,699,204 after they received a report that these funds were linked to Mr Miranda. As part of the SFO’s investigation they discovered that these funds had been transferred from Mr Miranda’s Swiss bank account and channelled through other bank accounts in Switzerland, Malta, Portugal, the United Arab Emirates and the Bahamas before being deposited in London. It was this bank account in London which the SFO then froze.
District Judge Clarke, sitting at Westminster Magistrates Court on 17 March 2023 noted: “It is clear to me that the money which was paid into the account from [Odebrecht] was money from a bribe. This would be an offence here in the UK.” The judge added “I am satisfied on the balance of probabilities that the money derives from unlawful conduct, namely money laundering and satisfies the dual criminality test and therefore is recoverable property.”
Mr Miranda’s lawyer, Abdullah Al-Yunusi stated: “our client is obviously disappointed with the judgment” adding that “we are, as a team, digesting this with him and considering all options, including an appeal.”
As part of the SFO investigation it was uncovered that Mr Miranda is suspected to have spent some of the proceeds of crime to fund his extravagant lifestyle, including over $1 million on hotels and casinos in Las Vegas in addition to purchasing a luxury car of $95,000. Mr Miranda remains the subject of two ongoing investigations into corruption in Brazil.
The Director of the SFO, Lisa Osofsky stated: "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.”
How we can help
Financial crime partner Frances Murray has a wealth of experience in financial crime and is uniquely placed to support clients’ that are the subject of a criminal investigation or prosecution in respect of money laundering or corruption.