An Unexplained Wealth Order (UWO) is an order which an enforcement authority can request which in essence recovers property that cannot be accounted for legitimately.
It is also known as the mafia order as it takes away unexplained wealth that you can personally have acquired by being involved in serious crime or a person connected with you has been involved in serious crime.
The BBC reported on the 7th October 2020 that such an order had resulted in a 10 million pound property portfolio of a Leeds business man being recovered. Mr Manssor Mahmood Hussain was suspected of money laundering and it was believed that the money was laundered through his property portfolio. Whilst he was purporting to be a legitimate business man and living an extravagant lifestyle it was believed that he was laundering money for known drug dealers and even murderers.
Whilst he had never been convicted of a criminal offence and no charges of money laundering had been brought against him, the National Crime Agency had intelligence linking him to known criminals and as such made the application for the Unexplained Wealth Order.
The businessman was ordered to provide proof that his wealth had come from legitimate sources. Later a settlement was reached whereby the majority of his properties were handed over.
The NCA stated that this case is a milestone demonstrating the power of the Unexplained Wealth Order, with significant implications for how we pursue illicit finance in the UK.
When can such an application for an Unexplained Wealth order be made?
When an agency believes that property which is being held by a person cannot be explained then such an application can be made providing that the High Court are satisfied that there is reasonable cause to believe that:
(a) the respondent holds the property, and
(b) the value of the property is greater than £50,000.
The High Court must be satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for suspecting that the known sources of the persons lawfully obtained income would have been insufficient for the purposes of enabling them to obtain the property and that they are a politically exposed person, or
there are reasonable grounds for suspecting that they have been, involved in serious crime (whether in a part of the United Kingdom or elsewhere), or a person connected with them is, or has been, so involved.
The High Court can make such an order requesting that a person provide a statement which has to state the nature and extent of the their interest in the property in respect of which the order is made
They will need to explain how they obtained that property and provide documentation in support of acquiring the property and where the funds came from
If you cannot show that the property was from a legitimate source then the agency can recover the property under the order.