Northern Irish woman ordered to explain wealth
Government tightens the screws on suspicious property purchases
A woman from Northern Ireland has had her assets frozen by law because she’s rich. Doesn’t that seem odd to you? Doesn’t it seem extraordinary that wealthy individuals should find themselves suddenly investigated by the law for no obvious reason? How could this happen? Should all of us who find ourselves financially well-blessed be fearful of that firm knock on the door and a flashing blue light on the street outside?
Well no, of course not. It isn’t a few random millionaires who have recently felt that sharp tap on the shoulder from the authorities. In fact, we’re talking about only four cases. The authority in question is the National Crime Agency. The four objects of their attention have each given the agency cause for concern, not because of their wealth alone but because of its sudden and unexplained nature.
Fabulous riches through negligible effort
Surely none of us would complain about becoming fantastically rich without expending any effort. The trouble is that, unless we earned or inherited this wealth, it’s difficult to see how it could miraculously appear unless through unlawful means.
The National Crime Agency was founded in 2013 with the express purpose of cutting serious and organised crime and protecting the public by pursuing those criminals who pose the greatest risk to the UK.
The NCA investigates human, weapon and drug trafficking; cyber-crime; and economic crime that goes across regional and international borders. Their remit is to investigate all serious crime in whatever sector.
Unexplained Wealth Orders (UWOs)
Among the tools at its disposal to help the NCA with their investigations is Unexplained Wealth Orders. These are a legal mechanism whereby the Agency can seize assets from people who provide no explanation of how these assets came about.
I explored Unexplained Wealth Orders in a blog two months ago. In particular, I examined the case of Zamira Hajiyeva, who had spent over £16,000,000 in just ten years, mostly with Harrods. The dubious origins of her unexplained wealth resulted in her assets being seized, including a luxury London pad valued at £15,000,000.
Only four UWOs to date
Although these Unexplained Wealth Orders are high profile, only four have ever been executed. The most recent being just this week. The subject of the Order is a woman from Northern Ireland with suspected links to paramilitary groups in the province. The NCA has frozen her property assets worth £3.2 million.
Four of these properties are in London, while two others are in Northern Ireland. Under the court order, issued on Tuesday, the woman is now obliged to explain how she financed the purchases.
The NCA believes she has links with criminals involved in cigarette smuggling. During the course of the investigation, the woman won’t be able to sell, transfer or dissipate these properties. It seems that such.
Apparently, we can expect the number of UWOs to rise. Andy Lewis is Head of Asset Denial at the NCA. He explains, “We do not investigate illicit finance based on monetary value alone. This latest order shows that we will act against those who we believe are causing the most harm to our communities.”
It’s surely good news that the net is closing on the big-time criminals who see the UK as a soft touch for their money laundering activities.
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