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Saturday, June 22, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

U.S. Will Keep Freezing Millions for Brazilians

(CN) - A federal judge renewed restraining orders on 11 U.S. bank accounts containing $12 million whose signatories face money-laundering charges in Brazil.

In 2008, the U.S. government froze the assets of 11 bank accounts held at Valley National Bank in New York based on restraining orders issued by courts in Brazil. The accounts are in the names of alleged shell companies incorporated in the British Virgin Islands.

The signatories of the accounts are accused in Brazilian courts of working as "doleiros" - money launderers for drug organizations in South and North America.

Corporations cannot be criminally prosecuted in Brazil, so the companies themselves are not defendants.

U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer noted that Maria Nolasco, a former assistant vice president at Valley National Bank, was arrested in 2004 and testified that she transferred money from these accounts to others, "attempting to create the appearance of legitimate business."

After the U.S. government renewed its restraining order request with Collyer, nine of the corporations named on the accounts at issue objected. They say the seizure of their assets constitutes a violation of due process because there was no pre-restraint hearing.

Collyer found last week that a hearing may be waived under extraordinary circumstances.

"Due process does not require a pre-restraint hearing on an application to enforce a foreign restraining order in the extraordinary circumstances of this case," she wrote. "The underlying criminal prosecutions already were initiated in Brazil. The accounts might be quickly dissipated if not restrained, and the assets are alleged to be the proceeds and instruments of crime."

Collyer said the account holders can voice their objections at an upcoming hearing she will schedule, without determining whether the "intervenors actually have a 'right' to a post-deprivation hearing."

"The risk of an erroneous deprivation is high because the property was restrained years ago - in 2008 pursuant to the original restraining order - and it may take several more years before the underlying criminal prosecutions and appeals are completed in Brazil," Collyer wrote.

Signatories to the frozen accounts include: Janine Ribiero, Joacyr Reinando, Ruy Ulhoa Cintra de Araujo, Joao Carlos da Cunha Canto Kneese and Ronaldo Speiss Fernandes Cortez, Pompeu Costa Lima Pinheiro Maia, Gustavo Zerfan Harber, Michael Homci Harber, Antonio Pires De Almeida, Elcio Areias, Antonio Carneiro, Henrique Lamberti and Marianel Gandolfo Miranda.

Four of these signatories - Maia, de Araujo, Ribiero and Reinando - have been convicted in Brazil, but the U.S. retains authority over the money in their accounts until they exhaust their attempts to appeal.

"Although the courts entered judgments of convictions and forfeiture against these individuals, the convictions and forfeitures are not final because appeals are pending," Collyer wrote (italics in original).

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