07th March 2018

Criminal Finances Act - Unexplained Wealth Orders (UWOs)

CRIMINAL FINANCES ACT 2017 – UWO’S In February 2018, The National Crime Agency announced that it had secured the first Unexplained Wealth Orders on two London properties valued at £22million, belong to an unnamed “politically exposed person”.

Unexplained Wealth Orders (UWOs)

The Criminal Finances Act 2017 provisions relating to UWO’s came into force on 31st January 2018. The Act introduces new measures to tackle asset recovery and money laundering in the UK.

The government has given law enforcement agencies new powers to seize suspected criminal property without bringing a prosecution. The UWO can be made against individuals, companies or trustees.

The criteria for granting of a UWO is:

1) That the respondent is a Politically Exposed Person (PEP) or there are reasonable grounds to suspect that the respondent or someone connected with them is or has been involved in serious crime in the UK or elsewhere;

2) Reasonable belief that the respondent holds the property and the value of the property is greater than £50,000;

3) That there are reasonable grounds to suspect that the known sources of the respondent's lawfully obtained income would have been insufficient for the purposes obtaining the property. 

The application is made to the High Court without notice and will usually accompany an asset freezing order (to prevent dissipation).

The UWO requires the respondent to explain how they lawfully acquired their asset. If they fail to respond or provide an inadequate response then this extra information can be used in a separate civil recovery process (and raises a presumption that the asset constitutes “recoverable property”) for the purposes of a civil recovery order under POCA.

Providing a misleading statement in response to a UWO (even if made recklessly) can result a criminal offence which is punishable by up to 2 years imprisonment.

There is no direct right to vary or amend the UWO. The only option would be to consider challenging the legality and validity via Judicial Review.

Cartwright King can assist with:

- Any UWO or freezing order application and consider options to challenge the same via a Judicial Review.

- Any allegation, investigation or prosecution of tax, fraud, money laundering or matters dealt with under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

For assistance please contact Sundeep Soor or Steve Kirby of the Fraud department on either 0808 168 5550 or email


Click here to see an example of an Unexplained Wealth Order (UWO) covered by The Independent.

For further information please get in touch with our dedicated team.

You can always call us on 0845 894 1622 or email on


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