Proceeds of crime
Unexplained wealth orders
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CHAMBERS HNW 2018
An unexplained wealth order can be made in respect of any property valued at more than £50,000, wherever in the world it is situated, if a court is satisfied that there is reasonable cause to believe a person has an interest in it, and reasonable grounds to suspect that they would not have been able to obtain that property using their lawfully obtained income from known sources. The court must also be satisfied that the person against whom the order is made is a politically exposed person from a state outside the European Economic Area, a person about whom there are reasonable grounds to suspect involvement in serious crime, or is closely connected to a person in either one of those categories.
If a UWO is made, the respondent or the subject of the order is given a limited amount of time in which to respond. A failure to do so can be relied upon in civil recovery proceedings. The law reverses the burden of proof; the respondent must show that the property is not the proceeds of crime otherwise it will be presumed that the property can be forfeited. Regardless of whether civil recovery proceedings are commenced, the response can be used to inform other investigations, including criminal investigations.
UWOs are intended partly to demonstrate that the UK is committed to seizing the benefit of crimes, especially corruption committed overseas. Their potential weakness stems from their politically charged nature. The UK courts will be concerned to ensure that they are not exploited in order to either harass or as a means to satisfy an overseas political enemy of the respondent.