A high court judge has allowed the seizure of a £5m luxury London apartment allegedly bought by a Brazilian businessman using “corrupt funds” linked to the multibillon-dollar Petrobras “Operation Carwash”money-laundering scandal.
Judge Johannah Cutts accepted that, as part of an investigation, the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) could seize a Kensington property linked to Julio Faerman. Faerman is a middleman accused of funnelling tens of millions of dollars into Swiss bank accounts as part of a long-running and elaborate bribery scheme at the Brazilian state-run oil company.
The Petrobras bribery scandal rocked Brazil’s political and business establishment as an investigation found it involved more than 80 politicians and members of the country’s business elite.
Faerman, who worked for the Dutch oil and gas services company SBM Offshore, struck a plea bargain with Brazilian prosecutors in 2016 in which he agreed to pay Brazil back $54m and “recognised that the money was obtained through criminal activities”.
In the ruling, Cutts said the SFO had launched its own civil recovery investigation in relation to Faerman. “The SFO claims that the funds used to purchase the property were linked to corrupt funds obtained by Mr Faerman during his work as an agent for a Dutch company to enable it to further its business in Brazil with Petrobras, the Brazilian national oil and gas company.
“The SFO has been investigating the Swiss bank accounts which, through a series of offshore companies and other accounts, are believed to have received some of the proceeds of Mr Faerman’s criminal activity. The SFO believes that these funds were used then to fund, at least in part, the purchase of the property. The property is estimated to have equity in the region of over £5m.”
An SFO spokesperson said: “This judgment makes clear that there is a clear and compelling public interest in maintaining this disclosure order. We are committed to preventing those who bribe, cheat and steal from enjoying their ill-gotten gains in this country.”
Faerman’s lawyer did not respond to requests for comment.