Unexplained Wealth Orders


Aiman Nurseitova-Joynes

According to the “Unexplained Wealth Orders” (UWO), which entered into force on the 31st January 2018, assets of individuals from “a State other than the United Kingdom or another EEA State”  are subjects of investigations.  In order to raise awareness to this issue and provide a brief explanation of UWO the guidance “Circular 003/2018” was introduced. It is presumed that UWO is able to minimise the attraction of the United Kingdom as a destination of illegal income.

“A UWO is an investigation order issued by the High Court (Court of Session in Scotland) on satisfaction of a number of tests.”[1]. UWO requires respondents to provide information regarding their assets with a value of over £50,000 such as a lawful ownership of a property and ways of this estate was obtained. UWO covers all aspects of income, for example banking relationship, property and other high assets purchases.

In case a respondent is incapable or refuses to provide information about the source of the income, there is a presumption that the asset is recoverable and this can be done through the procedure of civil recovery under the proceeds of Crime Act. If a person makes a false or misleading statement, he/she will commit a criminal offence. This leads that a person can be sentenced to jail for up to two years. Hence, the responsibility of owners of assets is to show that they were gained based on legitimate grounds.

The following agencies in England and Wales are responsible for UWO enforcement:

  • the National Crime Agency,
  • Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs,
  • the Financial Conduct Authority,
  • the Serious Fraud Office, or
  • the Crown Prosecution Service

UWO investigations have an international coverage. This means it is not necessarily that a respondent needs to be a UK resident, and an estate may be located outside the UK.  UK enforcement agencies might cooperate with the foreign authorities of the state where the asset is based in order to enforce UWO provisions.