Hot off the heels of their success in the Court of Appeal, upholding the first unexplained wealth order (UWO) obtained in the UK, it is reported today that since May the National Crime Agency (NCA) has obtained three new UWOs over property worth more than a total of £80m. One of these properties in particular is described as being “vast” and is already attracting media attention for fact that it has an underground swimming pool and cinema. The NCA is clearly not afraid of targeting high value properties and may even welcome the media attention that the extremely wealthy subjects of UWOs generate.
Also of note is that this UWO again targets foreign nationals – in this case the ultimate owners and occupiers of the “vast” property are reported to be from Kazakhstan. The properties were also held by nominee companies in exotic jurisdictions such as Anguilla and Curacao. This was a feature of the properties that were the subject of the first UWO. It appears that the NCA is executing its stated aim of targeting illicit funds from abroad that have been invested in the UK and, in particular, London property.
It is reported that the hearing to challenge the UWO will take place in today (Tuesday 10 March). We should therefore know soon whether the NCA will continue succeeding with its methodical but highly effective use of UWOs.
Daniel Bruce of Transparency International UK, said: "It is encouraging to see these powers being used.
"This landmark case should give government confidence that unexplained wealth orders are making a real difference in building Britain's reputation as a safe and clean place to do business."