‘McMafia Orders’ by Michael Bowes QC and Oliver Powell
Unexplained Wealth Orders (‘UWOs’) and the supporting Interim Freezing Orders (‘IFOs’) are now in force, and enforcement authorities are not wasting any time utilising the latest tool in their investigative armoury.
On 28 February 2018, the National Crime Agency (‘NCA’) announced that it had already been granted two UWOs to investigate properties totalling £22 million – believed to be owned by a Politically Exposed Person (‘PEP’). Additionally, IFOs were also granted by the High Court, meaning that the assets cannot be sold, transferred or dissipated while subject to the order.
A UWO requires a person who is reasonably suspected of involvement in, or of being connected to a person involved in, serious crime to explain the nature and extent of their interest in particular property, and how the property was obtained, where there are reasonable grounds to suspect that the respondent’s known lawfully obtained income would be insufficient to allow the respondent to obtain the property.
A UWO can also be applied to politicians or officials from outside the European Economic Area (‘EEA’), or those associated with them, namely PEPs.
Whilst it remains to be seen if UWOs will become widely used by the enforcement authorities, at a time when vast sums of money are laundered through London’s banking system, it seems unlikely that they will be a ‘flash in the pan’.
The NCA believes that up to £100 billion of tainted cash could be passing through the UK each year and that much of the money is integrated into the UK economy through the purchase of real estate, luxury cars, art and jewellery.
Given the same, the authors believe that UWOs will become routine, very much in the same way that Part 5 POCA civil recovery has done.
Michael Bowes QC and Oliver Powell were consulted on the Criminal Finances Bill, and in particular on UWOs, by Transparency International during the Bill’s passage through the two Houses. Their analysis and commentary on the Bill was used by MPs in preparing for debates in the House of Commons.
Michael and Oliver’s experience in this area means that they can speak authoritatively about the Criminal Finance Act 2017 and UWOs. In particular, they are ideally placed to advise those affected by UWOs and IFOs.
Michael is Head of the Business Crime Group at OTC. He is highly regarded as an expert in civil and criminal ‘cross-over’ work and is praised as “one of the few specialist criminal practitioners in this area” (Legal 500).
Oliver is a contributor to Millington & Sutherland Williams on the Proceeds of Crime (Fifth Edition), OUP. His practice encompasses: asset recovery (civil and criminal), bribery & corruption, and matters involving financial wrongdoing.
Barristers: Michael Bowes QC | Oliver Powell