The passing into law on 27 April of Unexplained Wealth Orders, a provision of the Criminal Finances Bill, is as significant in the global fight against corruption as the 2010 Bribery Act, according to Transparency International UK.
Transparency International’s research has exposed the role of the UK as a safe haven for corrupt money laundered from all over the world, harming ordinary citizens both in the UK and abroad. Unexplained Wealth Orders will empower UK law enforcement agencies to target corrupt money flowing into the UK and more easily return it to those from whom it has been stolen.
In March 2017 Transparency International research identified London properties worth a total of £4.2billion that were bought by individuals with suspicious wealth. The anti-corruption watchdog is now calling on the next Government to ensure these powers are used effectively to target all suspicious wealth being brought into the UK.
Duncan Hames, Director of Policy Transparency International UK, said:
“We welcome the cross-party support the Criminal Finances Bill received, reflecting the importance of this legislation. Unexplained Wealth Orders will help the UK get its house in order on suspicious wealth and help return stolen assets to countries that are blighted by corruption. This is a journey that has seen us aggressively threatened with legal action by an oligarch from the former Soviet Union, amidst a climate of intimidation of our offices overseas, cyber-attacks on our colleagues and smear campaigns against anti-corruption activists; landmark legislation such as this makes all those sorts of threats worth the risk. ”
“Transparency International pays tribute to the expert members of its Illicit Enrichment Taskforce that originated the concept of using Unexplained Wealth Orders in the UK, as well as our team that have led the campaign to secure their passage into law. The support of organisations such as Global Witness and countless individuals, including Bill Browder, has been vital in ensuring these proposals are enacted.”
“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. The £4.2billion worth of London properties we identified as having been bought with suspicious wealth represent low-hanging fruit for Unexplained Wealth Orders and ought to be a good starting point for their use. We look forward to announcements from the National Crime Agency that they have initiated proceedings and expect to see a significant dent in this £4.2billion worth of London property in the first twelve months.”
The use of Unexplained Wealth Orders in the UK originated following an Illicit Enrichment Taskforce convened by Transparency International in early 2015, that later published its findings here. In October 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.