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29th May 2019, London – An announcement today by the National Crime Agency (NCA) that they have used Unexplained Wealth Orders (UWOs) on £80 million worth of property marks major progress in the UK’s fight against dirty money, according to Transparency International UK (TI-UK).

The NCA states the UWOs relate to three properties owned by a Politically Exposed Person they believe to be involved in serious crime. The properties are held by companies located in undisclosed offshore jurisdictions, a common feature of money laundering cases. Over 87,000 properties in the UK are held through such vehicles, with legislation expected imminently that would unveil who truly owns them. No further details of the case were given.

UWOs, a police tool used to investigate suspicious wealth, have been available to law enforcement agencies in the UK for over a year now. This is the second case in which these orders have been used following the first UWOs targeted at two properties worth £22 million allegedly owned by a senior public official from Azerbaijan. Research conducted by TI-UK in 2017 found £4.4 billion worth of suspicious property across the UK that should be considered as targets for UWOs.

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

“The NCA’s action against this huge scale of unexplained wealth is good news, and should send a powerful message that illicit assets are now on the radar of UK authorities. London has long been the playground of the world’s corrupt kleptocrats and oligarchs – it is very encouraging to see that this is at last being challenged.”

“Two years ago we identified £4.4 billion worth of UK property bought with suspicious wealth. Property valued at £100 million is now subject to UWOs, that represents progress, but is not yet a sufficient response to the magnitude of the problem.”

The government has long promised to change the law to stop corrupt individuals from owning UK property anonymously through companies registered overseas in places like the British Virgin Islands or Jersey. The Government should ensure this legislation, which has cross-party support, is introduced urgently to reveal who really owns these companies and send a firm message that Britain is no longer a place to hide dirty money.”

“We note with disappointment the continued secrecy around the use of UWOs.  While a level of confidentiality is necessary to avoid compromising an investigation, this should not prevent the NCA from releasing more generic details about their cases.  Such transparency in relation to asset recovery is vital in understanding how criminals are hiding their wealth in the UK and who is helping them. Clarity in this area also helps assess the performance of UK authorities and measure the success of new powers.”



Press Office

Email: press@transparency.org.uk

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Notes to Editors:

·       The NCA announced in February 2018 they had used Unexplained Wealth Orders for the first time. To date this is the second known case involving UWOs.

·       In 2018 the High Court dismissed an appeal against the first UWOs.


Read 304 times Last modified on Tuesday, 6 August 2019 16:55

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