Unexplained Wealth Orders (UWO) were placed in statute by the Criminal Finances Act which was passed on 27 April 2017. It is a powerful tool that will help tackle serious crime and international corruption. Agencies with civil recovery powers, such as the NCA and the Serious Fraud Office, can apply to the High Court for a UWO where the agency thinks that an individual holds property, and there are reasonable grounds to suspect that the known sources of the individual’s lawfully obtained income would be insufficient to enable the individual to obtain that property.
If the person provides information in response to a UWO, the enforcement authority can then decide whether to investigate further, take recovery action or take no further action. If the person does not comply with a UWO, the property identified in the order is presumed to be recoverable under any subsequent civil recovery proceedings.
However, there are a number of dependencies which must be implemented before this measure can be commenced. Work has begun on drafting new court rules and providing law enforcement agencies with guidance and training on how to use this measure. A statutory code of practice is also being drafted, and will undergo a public consultation prior to it being laid under the affirmative procedure. To ensure that law enforcement are able to confidently and robustly use UWOs, we will seek to commence UWOs once all these dependencies are in place.