Unexplained Wealth Orders: A first by the NCA

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Yesterday, the UK’s National Crime Agency (the “NCA”) announced that it had successfully obtained two unexplained wealth orders (“UWOs”) through an application to the High Court. These are the first UWOs issued since their introduction to UK law on 31 January 2018 under the Criminal Finances Act 2017. Some anti-corruption commentators are hailing this as a landmark event for British law enforcement efforts against economic crime.
In this particular case, media reports indicate that these two UWOs relate to an NCA investigation regarding funds used to acquire properties in London and in the South East of England, said to be ultimately owned by an unnamed politically exposed person (“PEP”) from Central Asia. In addition to the UWOs, the properties are subject to related interim freezing orders. Consequently, the properties cannot be sold, transferred or dissipated until further order of the Court.

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