London Police Consider Asset Freezes in Crackdown on Violence
08 Jan 2020

Unexplained wealth orders, touted as a tool for seizing high-end London real estate from overseas kleptocrats, may soon be put to use against midlevel drug dealers and other criminals fueling violence in the U.K. capital, a senior investigator told ACAMS moneylaundering.com.

UWOs, which place the burden on suspected criminals and politically connected individuals from outside the EU to demonstrate that their property, funds and other assets targeted for seizure by U.K. authorities derive from legitimate sources, have been in force for two years but to date have only been used in four cases, each brought by the U.K. National Crime Agency.

Details of the first UWOs obtained emerged in 2018, when the High Court in London dismissed a challenge to prevent the seizure of two U.K. residences worth a combined £22 million from the wife of a foreign banker jailed for fraud and embezzlement. The case enhanced the measure’s reputation for halting the flow of corrupt overseas wealth into the U.K. property market.

But according to Detective Chief Superintendent Mick Gallagher, head of the London Metropolitan Police’s Central Specialist Crime Command, the measure may prove useful against lower level criminals and help the force reduce violent crime in the capital, where fatal stabbings and other homicides reached a 10-year high of 149 in 2019.

The Metropolitan Police, or Met, is seeking to employ UWOs in roughly 20 investigations against drug traffickers and other criminals amid public concern that violence tied to illicit narcotics has spiraled out of control, Gallagher told moneylaundering.com, adding that two of the cases could advance to trial within months.

“There’s a very real space for looking at unexplained wealth at a low level, around drug dealers and people driving the violence on our streets,” he said.

By Koos Couvée, ACAMS moneylaundering.com, 6 January 2020

Read more at ACAMS moneylaundering.com

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