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A guide to unexplained wealth orders

If you are the head of a corporation or large business venture, you may be familiar with the term ‘unexplained wealth order.’ If you are new to this area, this phrase may be a bit puzzling but, in short, it is exactly what it sounds like.

An unexplained wealth order, or UWO, is a court order in the UK that aims to identify fraud and financial crimes. It aims to identify people or corporations who have obtained wealth through unexplained means, which could be covering up illegal activity and could be concealing money laundering offences as well.

If you find that you or your business are given an unexplained wealth order, then you need to contact a fraud solicitor as soon as possible to help get your legal stance and defence in order, as a UWO is not something you should ignore.

In this article, you will be guided through the process following an unexplained wealth order being granted and instructed on how a legal team can be beneficial to you.

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Who can be given a UWO?

UWOs in the UK are aimed at high-net-worth individuals or businesses. For the High Court to grant a UWO, the following criteria must be met:

  • The person or corporation has been linked to criminal activity, either abroad or in the UK.
  • The person or business has been politically exposed or is linked to someone who has been, who is outside the European Economic Union, such as their spouse, or business associates.
  • The asset obtained has to be worth more than £50,000 in value.
  • The asset has to be in the respondents’ control, meaning that they have access to it and can decide to sell it.

If you find yourself in the receipt of a UWO and notice that you tick all or some of these criteria, then you need to seek legal advice as soon as possible.

What happens if the UWO is granted?

If you find that the UWO has been granted by the courts, then you will be asked to explain and identify how you or your corporation gained the asset(s) in question.

In some cases, you will be given a set deadline to respond within, which is why it is so important to seek the legal advice of a solicitor trained in fraud as soon as possible.

If you fail to respond within this time limit, you will likely be subject to civil recovery proceedings and the asset will be deemed the proceeds of crime, which can lead to further legal issues.

Challenging a UWO

You can challenge a UWO, especially if you or your legal team feel that the basis for receiving one is weak.

You have a better chance of overturning a UWO if any of the following apply:

  • You purchased the asset using legally obtained wealth.
  • You or your associates are not politically exposed.
  • You are not connected to or involved in serious criminal activity.
  • You do not have control of the asset.
  • The asset’s value is deemed to be lower than £50,000.

Even if you feel you meet the criteria for challenging a UWO, you will still need to seek the help of a solicitor who is trained in fraud cases.

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