Press release 05th Feb 2020

High Court dismisses challenge from first Unexplained Wealth Order respondents

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5 February 2020, London – A second legal challenge lodged by the respondent to the UK’s first ever Unexplained Wealth Order (UWO) has been dismissed by the High Court in London.

This means the respondent – Zamira Hajiyeva, the wife of a state banker from Azerbaijan – must now explain to the National Crime Agency how she was able to afford £22 million worth of UK property. The properties in question remain frozen, and if she either fails to respond or provides an inadequate response this can be used as grounds to pursue confiscation of the properties through civil proceedings.

Transparency International UK welcomes the continuation of this landmark investigation that may prove to be a turning point in the UK’s fight against dirty money. This should now give confidence to the National Crime Agency to widen its pursuit of billions of pounds of suspicious wealth used to buy luxury property across the UK. In 2019, we identified in excess of £5 billion worth of property bought with suspicious wealth, many of which could be the subject of  UWOs.

UWOs – an investigative tool to help law enforcement act on corrupt assets – came into force in 2018 after Transparency International successfully campaigned for their introduction in the Criminal Finances Act of 2017. The powers are intended to help UK law enforcement tackle illicit wealth hidden here.

Duncan Hames, Director of Policy at Transparency International UK, said:

“We’re delighted that this investigation will continue and Unexplained Wealth Orders are proving to be a valuable tool in the fight against corruption. We now hope the National Crime Agency will take confidence from this ruling and make greater use of this power, including targeting the assets of individuals still in positions of public authority.”

“The UK has long been seen as a safe haven for corrupt money, with our research identifying in excess of £5 billion worth of property bought with suspicious wealth. Despite successive governments recognising this, money-launderers have continued to hide their ill-gotten gains here. Only firm enforcement action will make a reality of Ministers’ claims that dirty money is not welcome in the UK.”

***ENDS***

Contact:

Mallary Gelb

mallary.gelb@transparency.org.uk

+44 (0)20 3096 7695

+44 (0)79 6456 0340