UK businessman ordered to reveal sources of unexplained wealth

Out-Law News | 23 Jul 2019 | 12:56 pm | 1 min. read

A UK businessman with suspected links to organised crime has been ordered to reveal the sources of the money he used to start and develop his £10 million property business.

The National Crime Agency (NCA) obtained an unexplained wealth order (UWO) from the High Court as part of its investigation into the businessman, in the first case of an order being granted based solely on an individual's alleged involvement in serious organised crime.

Gillespie Laura

Laura Gillespie

Partner

It is clear that unexplained wealth orders are being used by the NCA to explore sources of wealth, in this case arising from suspected serious criminal activity that has been linked to assets in the real estate sector.

UWOs were first introduced in the UK in January 2018, under the 2017 Criminal Finances Act. Once granted by the court, an UWO compels a person to explain the nature and extent of their interest in particular assets worth £50,000 or more; explain how they obtained the assets, especially how they were funded; and to disclose any other information specified in the order.

Failure to comply with a UWO creates a presumption that the assets have been obtained through unlawful conduct. They will therefore be vulnerable to civil recovery proceedings.

The NCA is investigating eight property purchases by the unnamed businessman, which it believes were funded by a number of criminal associates involved in drug trafficking, armed robberies and supplying firearms.

The agency has obtained interim freezing orders in respect of the properties, as well as a UWO in relation to the source of the purchase funds. This means that the businessman will not be able to sell, transfer or otherwise dispose of the properties while the NCA's investigation continues.

"It is clear that unexplained wealth orders are being used by the NCA to explore sources of wealth, in this case arising from suspected serious criminal activity that has been linked to assets in the real estate sector," said corporate crime expert Laura Gillespie of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.

"As a UWO is a civil power and investigation tool and interim freezing orders have been obtained, what remains to be seen is whether any recovery activity in terms of any proceeds of crime follows," she said.