The government has published details of the Criminal Finances Bill with prime central London property used for purposes of money laundering in the spotlight.
Unexplained Wealth Orders are a key component of the Bill in a bid to end the UK’s role as a safe haven for corrupt property deals; these will require an individual suspected of serious criminality to explain the origins of their wealth or face civil recovery action.
Law enforcement agencies will apply to the High Court for permission to put an order in place, and enhanced seizure and forfeiture powers contained in the Bill will be augmented by greater sharing of information between regulated bodies on property transactions.
“Money stolen from public funds like health budgets in developing countries and used to invest in UK property and other assets is immensely damaging to the poorest of the poor, and this is a chance for the UK to step back from complicity in crimes of corruption” says
Robert Barrington, UK executive director of anti-corruption pressure group Transparency International, which has campaigned for UWOs for some time.
“We simply cannot continue to roll out the red carpet to the world’s corrupt elite wanting to lodge their illicit wealth in the UK. The UK has a responsibility to ensure that any stolen wealth flowing into the country is stopped, frozen, and ultimately returned to the people from whom it was stolen” he adds.
In recent weeks the former National Association of Estate Agents managing director Peter Bolton King - now global residential director at the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors - has said Brexit could enhance the potential for money laundering.
"There are cases of property being used for money laundering, without any shadow of a doubt, and everybody has to work even harder to make sure we clamp down on that. With the sterling rate, it certainly doesn't make life any easier... There obviously is the potential for more overseas money and by its very nature it could potentially up the level of dodgy money coming in... The risk has not changed. The potential quantity of risk could go up" Bolton King told the International Business Times.