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First anti-corruption order to freeze property assets

Service Area: Criminal and Regulatory

Member: Roger Isaacs

The National Crime Agency (NCA) has announced it has used anti-corruption powers in a serious organised crime case for the first time, after freezing assets owned by a businessman with suspected links to gangs involved in trafficking, armed robberies and supplying firearms. The NCA has secured an Unexplained Wealth Order (UWO) to force the man to reveal the source of funds used to kickstart his £10 million property empire.

Although the NCA has secured UWOs before, this is the first time one has been used solely based on an individual’s alleged involvement in serious organised crime. Interim Freezing Orders have also been granted for the properties, meaning that they cannot be sold, transferred or dissipated while the investigation continues.

UWOs were brought in mainly to force foreign officials suspected of corruption and their families to account for their wealth, in a bid to stem dirty money flowing through Britain. They were used for the first time last year against Zamira Hajiyeva, the wife of the jailed former chairman of Azerbaijan’s largest bank, to seize a property and a golf course worth about £22 million.

A spokesman for the NCA said that the Agency is pleased to have secured a UWO to allow it to investigate the source of the funds used to purchase the properties. He added that these orders are a powerful tool in being able to investigate illicit finance generated within, or flowing into, the UK and discourage it happening in the first place.

When corruption is suspected, it is essential that forensic accountants have the time and space to examine the money trail and see where it flows to and from. With accounts and assets frozen, the alleged criminal will not be able to sell, transfer or dissipate them while the investigation continues.

Roger Isaacs, Forensic Partner at Milsted Langdon, said: “This is a landmark case, with the NCA using an anti-corruption order to freeze assets. It shows the value of forensic accounting in investigations such as this.
Author: Roger Isaacs 22 July 2019