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With new order on unexplained wealth, UK can seize assets of corrupt politicians, criminals

Property in London and other major cities in the United Kingdom is said to be the major destination of corrupt cash.

world Updated: Feb 03, 2018 23:41 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London
Unexplained Wealth Order,Transparency International UK,Ben Wallace
Five properties suspected to have been bought using corrupt wealth includes two by former Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif in London, according to Transparency International UK.(AFP)

Corrupt foreign politicians and criminals who launder an estimated £90 billion every year through the United Kingdom will need to explain their wealth under a new law called Unexplained Wealth Order (UWO) that came into force this week, or face seizure.

Property in London and other major cities in the United Kingdom is said to be the major destination of corrupt cash. The British news media mention Russian oligarchs in this regard, but the measure applies toindividuals from all countries.

Transparency International UK has identified £4.4 billion worth of property in the UK that may be the target of UWOs. Five properties it suspects had been bought using corrupt wealth includes two by former Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif in London.

Provided under the Criminal Finance Act, the UWO allows authorities to freeze and recover property if individuals are unable to explain how they acquired assets in excess of £50,000. Previously, British authorities had few powers to act unless the individuals had a conviction in the country of origin.

Ben Wallace, security minister, told The Times on Saturday that he wanted the “full force of the government” to bear down on criminals and corrupt politicians using Britain as a playground and haven: “When we get to you we will come for you, for your assets and we will make the environment that you live in difficult”.

“If they are an MP in a country where they don’t receive a big salary but suddenly they have a nice Knightsbridge townhouse worth millions and they can’t prove how they paid for it, we will seize that asset, we will dispose of it and we will use the proceeds to fund our law enforcement,” he added.

Rachel Davies Teka of anti-corruption Transparency International UK, said: “The introduction of UWOs is a significant moment in the fight against dirty money flowing into the UK. They will allow law enforcement to much more easily investigate assets that are highly likely to have been bought using corrupt money, often stolen from populations in some of the poorest parts of the world.”

“From Russia to Nigeria to the Middle East it is no secret that corrupt officials have channelled ill-gotten funds into the UK via the property market”.

First Published: Feb 03, 2018 16:59 IST