U.K. freezes US$121 mil in eight accounts over bribery fears

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LONDON (Aug 14): The U.K.’s National Crime Agency froze eight bank accounts containing more than a combined 100 million pounds (US$121 million), which it suspects are the proceeds of overseas bribery and corruption.

Efforts will be made to recover the money if it’s found to come from, or be earmarked for, activities that break the law, the agency said Wednesday in a statement.

The freezing orders, the largest made under British laws on criminal financing passed in 2017, were granted at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Aug 12, the agency said. The orders give the NCA more time to investigate the funds and aren’t a finding of guilt.

An individual linked to the latest orders had 20 million pounds frozen, following a hearing in December, the agency said. It declined to provide any details that may identify the people linked to the accounts.

The NCA has used new powers such as unexplained wealth orders and account freezing orders to target suspected illicit assets over the past year, and is “already seeing some far-reaching impact of this activity,” the agency’s Ben Russell said in a statement.