Unexplained Wealth Orders (UWOs) have recently been in the news. They extend the powers available to UK law enforcement authorities under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (POCA). A UWO enables investigators to ask people who are holding assets, which based on their legitimate income they would not be able to afford, to prove that such assets were obtained from legitimate sources. If the person can’t prove the assets are from a legitimate source, then the authorities can take steps to recover those assets.
Introduced by the Criminal Finances Act 2017, UWOs became available to the UK’s enforcement authorities on 31 January 2018, but it wasn’t until July 2018 that their use was reported in the mainstream press. The press interest followed the unsuccessful appeal against a UWO obtained earlier this year by the National Crime Agency against Mrs. Zamira Hajiyeva, the wife of Jahangir Hajiyev, a former chairman of the International Bank of Azerbaijan who in 2016 was jailed 15 years for offences including abuse of office and large-scale fraud against the bank.