On Friday 12 July the National Crime Agency (NCA) obtained a new set of Unexplained Wealth Orders (UWOs) targeting the £10m property empire of an anonymous "businessman from the north of England".
As an "enforcement authority" under section 362A of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, the NCA has the power to apply for UWOs. It is a requirement for making a UWO that the respondent is either a "politically exposed person" (PEP) or that there are reasonable grounds for suspecting that the respondent is, or has been, involved in serious crime or is connected with a person involved in serious crime (see s362B(4)). It is alleged that the individual's property purchases were funded by criminal associates involved in the illegal drugs trade and armed robberies, among other activity.
This latest set of UWOs represents a particularly interesting development because this is the first time orders have been obtained solely based on that second ground - an individual’s alleged involvement in serious organised crime. We have previously observed that the uptake and use of UWOs was relatively slow after their introduction, but this latest order shows the NCA's growing confidence in them and an interesting expansion of the grounds on which they are willing to apply for them. We can be sure to see more UWOs being used in the future.
We will continue to watch with interest as this latest UWO, and the recent set obtained in May 2019 over a PEP's properties in London, progress and whether we will see a UWO result in the forfeiture of property for the first time.
Andy Lewis, Head of Asset Denial at the NCA, said: “We are pleased to have again successfully secured a UWO to allow us to investigate the source of the funds used to purchase these properties. These orders are a powerful tool in being able to investigate illicit finance generated within, or flowing into the UK and discourage it happening in the first place”.