Partner Bambos Tsiattalou discusses recent NCA loss on the Kazakh UWOs case.

 

Bambos’ comments were published in Law360, 09 April 2020, and can be found here.

British prosecutors received a reality check when a High Court judge scrapped unexplained wealth orders used to seize three London properties suspected of being bought with dirty money in a decision restricting the scope of the country’s new anti-corruption powers.

The case was the most complex the National Crime Agency has brought so far using so-called unexplained wealth orders, or UWOs, introduced in 2018 to allow investigators to freeze assets suspected of being financed with criminal funds.

In the first serious setback for the NCA, Judge Beverley Lang on April 8 said Britain’s top law enforcer had conducted a “flawed” investigation that failed to prove that properties owned through a web of offshore trusts had been bought with the proceeds of crime.

Despite the defeat at the hearing, the NCA did ultimately get what it was looking for with the UWO: Namely information investigators would not otherwise have about the ultimate owners of assets suspected of being purchased with criminal funds.

Where the agency was damned by the judge was in its approach and pressing ahead with a flawed investigation built on unreliable conclusions. “It is now a reality check for the NCA over the scope of its powers and it took a judge to do this.” said Bambos Tsiattalou, founding partner at specialist fraud and white collar crime firm Stokoe Partnership Solicitors. “The problem is the NCA carried on, not having accepted the explanation they were given.”

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