Unexplained Wealth Orders (UWOs) have returned to the news, with the reporting that £10 million in cash and property has been forfeited by a Leeds businessman. On the application of the National Crime Agency (NCA), an Unexplained Wealth Order was made against Mansoor Mahmood Hussain. The NCA suggested that there was reasonable cause to believe that property linked to him had been acquired through unlawful conduct.
These Orders do not require the applicant to prove that assets were obtained unlawfully. Rather, the onus is on the person subject of the Order to show that the property was from a legitimate source. Accompanying freezing orders can be made to preserve assets while the origins of belongings are considered.
When such an Order is made, the respondent finds themselves in an unenviable position. Failure to put their case would result in detrimental conclusions being drawn as to the source of property. But providing information may carry risk of incrimination to self and others at what may be an early stage of investigation. And of course knowingly giving false or misleading information is an offence.
In this case it was reported that Mr Hussain had originally complied with the Order providing supporting evidence. The head of civil recovery at the NCA is reported to have claimed that this actually served to bolster its case and helped the agency identify further property. A settlement was finally agreed.
The future of these Orders was questioned in April when two Kazakhstan citizens successfully persuaded the High Court to discharge Orders relating to three valuable London homes – one on the famous “Billionaire’s Row”, The Bishops Avenue in Hampstead. Mr Hussain’s matter ending in a huge settlement will surely serve to boost the confidence of the National Crime Agency. The possible gains from this process are clear to see and with the NCA referring to this case as “a milestone”, this is likely to encourage the pursuit of more Orders.