28 Feb 2018
The United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency (NCA) has secured two unexplained wealth orders (UWOs), a month after they were established in the country.
UWOs require individuals to explain various issues about an asset, including how it was obtained, in situations where there are grounds to suspect that their known income would be insufficient to obtain the property.
The NCA said the UWOs will enable it to investigate assets totalling £22m, which are believed to ultimately be owned by a politically exposed person (PEP).
“These are the first such orders granted and represent the first time the legislation will be tested through the court,” the NCA stated.
The orders relate to a property in London and another in the South East of England.
“In addition to the UWOs, interim freezing orders (IFOs) were granted meaning that the assets cannot be sold, transferred or dissipated while subject to the order (IFO),” the crime unit explained.
The NCA is one of only five “enforcement authorities” in England and Wales that can apply for a UWO.
The others are HMRC, the Financial Conduct Authority, the Serious Fraud Office and the Crown Prosecution Service.
Donald Toon, Director for Economic Crime at the NCA, said: “Unexplained wealth orders have the potential to significantly reduce the appeal of the UK as a destination for illicit income.
“They enable the UK to more effectively target the problem of money laundering through prime real estate in London and elsewhere. We are determined to use all of the powers available to us to combat the flow of illicit monies into, or through, the UK.”
Transparency International, which has campaigned for the establishment of UWOs, welcomed the news.
The organisation’s head of advocacy, Rachel Davies Teka, said: “New legislation is only as good as its implementation and this announcement is a strong indicator that UWOs will be used in addressing the billions of pounds worth of property bought with suspicious wealth in the UK.”
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