Press release 08th Apr 2020

Unexplained Wealth Orders against properties belonging to Kazakh political elite dismissed

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CASE HIGHLIGHTS URGENT NEED FOR GREATER TRANSPARENCY OVER PROPERTY OWNERSHIP

8th April 2020, London – Unexplained wealth orders, which would have required family members of the former Kazakh President to explain how they acquired £80 million worth of UK property, were today dismissed by the High Court.

The judgement comes after the three orders were challenged by the family in early March. An investigation by Transparency International UK, Finance Uncovered and the BBC had previously identified the properties targeted by the orders as a mansion on the Bishops Avenue, a luxury apartment in Brompton and another large house in Highgate.

The hearings revealed the properties were owned by Dariga Nazarbayeva and Nurali Aliyev, daughter and Grandson of the former Kazakh President Nursaltan Nazarbayev. The National Crime Agency alleged the properties were bought with illicit funds linked to Rakhat Aliyev, Dariga Nazarbayeva’s former husband and father to Nurali. The pair denied any wrongdoing.

In her judgement, Mrs Justice Lang said the NCA had not sufficiently proved that Rakhat Aliyev was the source of the funds. The NCA says it will appeal the decision.

The case has highlighted continuing challenges faced by the UK in tackling funds suspected to be the proceeds of corruption and demonstrates the urgent need for greater transparency over who really owns secretive offshore companies holding property in the UK.

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

“This decision is a setback for the National Crime Agency. The use of complex webs of secretive companies makes it extremely difficult for investigators to identify the individuals behind them and their source of funds. We urge UK law enforcement to continue to make use of the unexplained wealth powers to address the £5 billion worth of UK property that we have previously flagged as bought with suspicious wealth.

“This case has highlighted major weaknesses in the UK’s defences against suspect funds that should be addressed urgently. Secretive corporate ownership continues to be a pervasive issue across the UK with tens of thousands of properties owned by opaque offshore vehicles. Our research shows these arrangements are used with great frequency by the corrupt to hide their identities and the true source of their funds. The Government should require transparency over who really owns secretive offshore companies holding UK property, making it easier to identify property bought with suspicious wealth and giving the corrupt no place to hide.”

 

Notes to editors:

The Registration of Overseas Entities Bill, yet to be tabled by the Government, would require all overseas companies that own UK property to reveal the identity of the individuals behind them.

Transparency International UK’s research has identified 421 UK properties worth more than £5billion which have been purchased with suspicious wealth. Many of these properties could be the subject of UWOs.