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TI-UK welcomes landmark legal action against assets linked to Kazakh political elite

10th March 2020, London – A joint investigation between Transparency International UK, Finance Uncovered and the BBC today revealed the National Crime Agency has issued an unexplained wealth order (UWO) in relation to a mansion in one London’s most sought after neighbourhoods linked to a family member of the Former Kazakh President, Nursaltan Nazarbayev.

Transparency International UK welcomes this order and two others granted in the same case against three luxury London properties worth £80 million which also include a £31 million apartment in Brompton. Mortgage documents for the mansion, which cannot be identified for legal reasons, show Nurali Aliyev, grandson of Nursaltan Nazarbayev, was its most recent occupant.

The UWOs, first issued in May 2019, are today being challenged in the high court, with further details expected around the circumstances under which the properties were acquired. Should the appeal fail and the orders are upheld, the respondents will have to show how they were lawfully able to afford £80m worth of London property. An inadequate explanation could be used by investigators to confiscate the properties.

This case marks the second use of UWOs, which were originally introduced in the 2017 Criminal Finances Act. The first UWOs were issued against assets belonging to Zamira Hajiyeva and her husband Jahangir, who was already in prison in Azerbaijan for embezzlement from the state owned bank of which he had been Chair.

Transparency International UK originally proposed the introduction of unexplained wealth orders to UK law, to help law enforcement investigate property bought with suspicious wealth which may constitute the proceeds of corruption. Research published by Transparency International last year identified more than £5 billion worth of UK property bought with suspicious wealth.

 

Daniel Bruce, Chief Executive of Transparency International UK, said:

“It is encouraging to see these powers being used to target assets linked to political elites. Cases like this give individuals with suspicious wealth pause for thought, sending a message that UK property may not be the safe haven it once was.

“This landmark case should give Government confidence that unexplained wealth orders are making a real difference in building Britain’s reputation as a safe and clean place to do business. It is important that agencies seeking to make further use of these powers are sufficiently funded to address the £5 billion in property we have identified bought with suspect funds.”

 

The circumstances around the case also raise questions about the UK’s defences against dirty money entering the UK. Our investigation found the three properties were bought with an array of opaque entities including foundations in Panama and Curaçao and a company registered in the UK Overseas Territory of Anguilla.

Anonymous property ownership through structures like this remains commonplace across the UK, highlighting the need for a register revealing the true owners of overseas companies owning UK property.

UK-based banks, law firms and advisers also played a role in acquiring these properties raising questions about the effectiveness of the private sector’s role as first line of defence against dirty money.

 

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

“The action taken by the National Crime Agency in this case is very welcome, but they also need business to play its part as our first line of defence against dirty money entering the economy by challenging suspicious wealth. This case is a timely reminder that the UK has a way to go until it has defences capable of getting to grips with this problem.

“To aid the detection of suspicious wealth in UK property, the Government should prioritise introducing a register revealing the true beneficiaries of overseas companies owning UK property.  Decisive action from lawmakers and regulators is needed in order to show Britain is serious about giving those with wealth of dubious origins no place to hide here and ensuring there is no-one to help them.”

 

Contact:

Harvey Gavin

harvey.gavin@transparency.org.uk

+44 (0)20 3096 7695

+44 (0)79 6456 0340

 

Naomi Neiland

naomi.neiland@transparency.org.uk

+44 (0)20 3096 7695

+44 (0)79 6456 0340

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Read 313 times Last modified on Tuesday, 10 March 2020 06:47

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