BCL partner John Binns explains Unexplained Wealth Orders, their uses, their impact and how we can deal with them as they become more common in the future.
John Binns on Unexplained Wealth Orders:
"The idea of unexplained wealth orders is that if somebody is in possession of property that's worth more than £50000 and falls into one of two categories, then the court can order them to explain how they obtained the interest(investment) in the property. And the two categories are, first of all, suspected involvement in serious crime or somebody who's connected with that. And the second one is politically exposed persons who have got a position of public trust or have held a position of public trust somewhere outside the EEA.
Generally speaking, I think it's fair to say the unexplained wealth agenda is part of something broader. It's about having more suspicion institutionally and within businesses in the UK about people's wealth and sources of wealth, specifically in categories of politically exposed persons. But not just that and not just financial institutions. Now we've got law firms need to have procedures to deal with these things. Accountants, crypto currency businesses, art galleries. And so we find ourselves advising both the businesses on how to make sure that their procedures are fine tuned enough to comply with the law, but also be fair to their customers. And we've also advise people on the other side who find themselves with frozen bank accounts or inexplicably stopped transactions. And I want to understand how that's happened and what can be done about it.
We've had at BCL a few queries from clients who want to find ways of avoiding these orders and find ways of preparing for them if they come their way. We've also had dealings with the NCA National Crime Agency where they think they can get an order. They have a series of questions they want to put and we have to enter into a dialog or we choose to enter into a dialog in order to deal with things in a more friendly and less public way. And that, I think, is perhaps a hidden side of unexplained wealth and the provisions that exist is not just about the orders. And I think that expansion of scope of the sorts of things that the NCA and other authorities can ask about, the sorts of things that we can help to negotiate a way out of is is an interesting sort of hidden aspect of the unexplained wealth legal framework."
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