Unexplained Wealth Orders: How to catch the corrupt and corrupt money in the UK

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.

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.

Any law is only as good as its implementation and we now call on law enforcement agencies to use Unexplained Wealth Orders as soon as they are empowered to do so, and the next Government to ensure they are properly resourced. - Duncan Hames, head of policy at Transparency International UK

The team at TI UK were delighted when the Bill finally received Royal Assent in the UK Parliament on the night of 27 April.  

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.
 

For any press enquiries please contact press@transparency.org

Latest

Support Transparency International

World Whistleblower Day 2019 – is this a landmark year for whistleblower protection?

Too often, whistleblowers face retaliation after bringing corruption, fraud and financial malpractice to light. Is change around the corner? This year, we celebrate World Whistleblower Day, 23 June, with some serious wins for whistleblower protection already behind us in 2019, and some encouraging developments on the horizon.

Austria’s Strache affair and the undue influence toolkit

A week ago, German newspapers published evidence of the former Vice-Chancellor of Austria and a colleague apparently negotiating corrupt deals with the purported niece of a Russian oligarch close to President Vladimir Putin. The scandal illustrates the tools and methods used by those who wish to enrich themselves from public funds and advance private interests over the public good.

Why corruption matters in the EU elections

What voters should know as they head to the polls.

Four ways the G20 can take the lead on anti-corruption

The globalisation of world trade and finance has been accompanied by an internationalisation of corruption. The G20 Anti-Corruption Working Group therefore has the potential to be a very important partner in the fight for a more just world.

Venezuela: Se necesitan instituciones sólidas para abordar la delincuencia organizada

La corrupción en las más altas esferas del Gobierno venezolano ha causado inestabilidad social y económica extrema y ha debilitado a las instituciones estatales que deberían proteger a la ciudadanía. Las redes de delincuencia organizada actúan con impunidad en todo el país.

Venezuela: Strong institutions needed to address organised crime

Corruption in the top echelons of the Venezuelan government has led to extreme instability and weak state institutions, and allows organised crime networks to act with impunity all across the country.

The trillion dollar question: the IMF and anti-corruption one year on

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has made public commitments and adopted a new framework to address corruption - we check how the IMF is progressing with this one year later.

Social Media

Follow us on Social Media