Unexplained Wealth Orders: How to catch the corrupt and corrupt money in the UK
On 27 April the UK parliament passed an important provision of the Criminal Finance Bill that introduces a powerful new weapon into the anti-corruption arsenal: Unexplained Wealth Orders. This follows action already taken in Australia and Ireland.
The provision specifically targets red flag situations where a person buying expensive items, like property or jewels, doesn’t appear to be wealthy enough to make the purchase. It could be a politician in Russia or a small business owner in Brussels who buys a multi-million pound property in central London. If the person has links to serious crime or access to public money, then the authorities can act.
The UK law enforcement agencies can now use an Unexplained Wealth Order to investigate the source of that money, and, if it is found to be corrupt money, more easily return it to those from whom it has been stolen.
This is something that Transparency International UK and other anti-corruption groups in the UK have been working hard to bring about since the UK has been identified as one of the key destinations for corrupt money.
Here’s Duncan Hames from TI-UK explaining the importance of the new provisions.
#BREAKING: Criminal Finances Bill passes into law! - "As significant in fighting corruption as the Bribery Act" https://t.co/kj8J2WqNlO pic.twitter.com/ruQ445EQhr— Transparency Int'lUK (@TransparencyUK) April 27, 2017
In March 2017, Transparency International research identified London properties worth a total of £4.2billion (US$5.4 billion) that were bought by individuals with suspicious wealth.
Anti-corruption activists came together to push for this landmark resolution and won the support of members of parliament across the political spectrum. Now the law must be followed up with action.
The team at TI UK were delighted when the Bill finally received Royal Assent in the UK Parliament on the night of 27 April.
Transparency International UK celebrates the adoption of the Criminal Finances Act. Congratulations @TransparencyUK! pic.twitter.com/wNH47FWizR— Maggie Murphy (@MaggieMrphy) April 27, 2017
The use of Unexplained Wealth Orders in the UK originated following an Illicit Enrichment Taskforce convened by Transparency International in early 2014, that later published its findings here. In November 2016 our research found that a single house, owned by the Gaddafi family, was the only asset the UK had recovered from political elites of Arab Spring states.
Correction: This was updated to reflect the fact that the bill was not voted on but received Royal Assent and to correct the spelling of Gaddafi.
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