A banker’s wife faces losing £22m of luxury property after failing to overturn the UK’s first use of a new power designed to combat international corruption.
The woman has been fighting an Unexplained Wealth Order (UWO) brought by the UK’s National Crime Agency, which challenged her to explain how she could afford two British properties worth £22m.
The High Court ruled in favour of the NCA on Wednesday and dismissed her attempt to challenge the order. The NCA argued that the woman bought the properties using funds embezzled by her husband when he was employed at a state bank in their home country. Her failure to overturn the UWO means she will have to explain how she came to afford the properties or face having them seized.
David Corker, partner at law firm Corker Binning, noted that asset recovery orders, a precursor to unexplained wealth orders, had been difficult to obtain because of the very high level of proof required, and said he expected the same to be true of UWOs. “High court judges require a high standard of evidence before they will grant these orders and deprive people of their property,” he said.
While the use of these orders have great “symbolic value” in the government’s fight against corruption, their long-term effectiveness haven’t been determined yet, said David Corker, partner at law firm Corker Binning in London.
“Winning this type of application in the High Court is very time-consuming and resource intensive,” said Mr. Corker. “Whether they will make the difference they say it will, it remains to be seen.”
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