NCA secures first Unexplained Wealth Orders


The National Crime Agency announced on Wednesday that it had secured a  so-called UWO, valued at £22m, plus interim asset freezes on two properties whose ultimate owner was a “politically exposed person”, but it gave no further details.

The subject of the landmark orders is believed to be a politician from a country belonging to the Commonwealth of Independent States who was already in the sights of the NCA, according to a report in the FT.

UWOs only came into force at the end of January and these are the first to be secured under the new legislation. The move by the NCA, the umbrella law-enforcement agency, comes after David Green, the director of the Serious Fraud Office, last month tried to manage expectations of an immediate crackdown on wealthy criminals, warning that high costs and slow progress in corruption cases could make it difficult for law-enforcement agencies to secure the orders.

UWOs apply to politically exposed people, such as foreign politicians and their families, from outside the European Economic Area, or to anyone suspected of being involved in organised crime. They essentially shift the burden of proof from investigators to the investigated, forcing them to explain assets that appear out of proportion to their known income. If UWOs go unanswered, law-enforcement agencies can argue in court that assets are likely the proceeds of ill-gotten gains, and a civil recovery order can be imposed.