In our recent blog post on the introduction in the UK of Unexplained Wealth Orders (“UWOs“), which can be found here, we explained how the new investigative tool could affect you and your business. In short, UK authorities may require the owner of property to provide details of how the property was acquired, where the authority has reasonable grounds to suspect that the owner would not have sufficient lawfully obtained assets to finance the purchase of the property.
Although UWOs were only introduced on 31 January 2018, the UK National Crime Agency (“NCA“) has already acted so as to secure two UWOs in connection with assets with a total value of £22m belonging to an unnamed “politically exposed person” from central Asia. In an accompanying press release, Donald Toon, the Director for Economic Crime at the NCA, stated that UWOs “have the potential to significantly reduce the appeal of the UK as a destination for illicit income” and that they will “enable the UK to more effectively target the problem of money laundering through prime real estate in London and elsewhere“.
It is clear that the UK authorities are prepared to use UWOs in appropriate cases. As set out before, HM Government has not yet provided guidance on best practice in responding to a UWO. However, as the UK authorities have now secured UWOs, there may now be more information regarding the obligations of a respondent in replying to a UWO, either as a result of judicial decision or official guidance.