Unexplained Wealth Orders
The UK has recently introduced unexplained wealth orders, which require individuals to explain their interest in specified property and the source of wealth used to acquire it.
Unexplained wealth orders can act as a gateway to forfeiting the property under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 or to obtaining information which can be used to further other investigations.
It is essential to formulate an immediate strategy to challenge or respond to such orders, something we are very well placed to do. Peters & Peters is ranked in Band 1 for Proceeds of Crime Act Work & Asset Forfeiture by the Chambers UK 2021 legal directory.
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.
A court must be satisfied that there is reasonable cause to believe a person has an interest in the property 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, or is 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.
Once an order is made, the person will be given a limited amount of time to respond. A failure to respond can be relied upon in civil recovery proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002: it reverses the burden of proof to require the person to prove that the property is not the proceeds of crime, rather than requiring the state to prove that it is.
Regardless of whether civil recovery proceedings are commenced, the response can be used to inform other investigations, including criminal investigations. So it is essential to seek expert advice immediately upon receipt of an unexplained wealth order.
We have a lot of experience advising clients facing action under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, and unparalleled expertise representing clients facing international investigation.