UK Markets open in 6 hrs 53 mins

British crime agency recovers $65 million of suspect money in Barclays accounts

FILE PHOTO: A branch of Barclays Bank is seen, in London

By Sam Tobin

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's National Crime Agency (NCA) on Friday obtained a civil recovery order relating to nearly 54 million pounds ($65 million) of suspected criminal property held in accounts with Barclays.

The NCA's lawyers told London's High Court that the money is likely "the proceeds of unlawful conduct", a view shared by Barclays which first approached the agency about the money.

Andrew Sutcliffe, representing the NCA, said in court documents that the NCA will set up a claim scheme to allow "innocent account holders" to ask for the return of the money if they can show it is not criminal property.

Judge Robin Knowles said he was prepared to make the civil recovery order "without hesitation".

"We welcome the High Court's ruling, which enables the funds to be transferred to the NCA to support further their efforts in stopping fraud and economic crime," a Barclays spokesperson said.

The NCA said that the case was "a great example of how the public and private sector can work together to recover proceeds of crime".

"The proactive identification of these funds by Barclays was the reason we could take this action," said Adrian Searle, director of the National Economic Crime Centre within the NCA.

"The money will be credited to the public purse and a portion used to fund a range of work including programmes designed to prevent fraud and protect potential victims," Searle added in a statement.

(Reporting by Sam Tobin; Editing by Alexander Smith)