After a fêted introduction, UWOs have had a stop-start beginning. But are things about to change?
In the last couple of weeks unexplained wealth orders (UWOs) have once again been making a splash in the news. The few details released by the National Crime Agency (NCA) about the latest UWOs are sufficiently headline grabbing: ‘a politically exposed person believed to be involved in serious crime’; ‘three residential properties in prime locations’; and ‘bought for more than £80m and held by offshore properties’. The current anonymity of the subject of the UWOs—and their nationality—merely adds to the interest.
Russia and CIS states, and their citizens resident in London, have been a particular target of recent political and media attention on corruption (and other matters). Yet it is perhaps a misconception that individual Russians’ wealth is reflective of Russia as an economic superpower. In fact Russia’s GDP in 2018 was $1,630bn compared to the UK’s GDP of £2,830bn, Germany’s GDP of $4,000bn and the USA’s GDP of $20,490bn. The political and media attention can partly be explained because much of the country’s wealth is concentrated in the hands of the few. Yet the focus on Russia and CIS states masks a global problem.
The UK’s National Economic Crime Centre, a multi-agency centre, estimates that the scale of money laundering in the UK exceeds £100bn annually. In its ‘National Strategic Assessment of Serious and Organised Crime 2018’, the NCA lists Russia but also China, Hong Kong, Pakistan and the UAE as overseas jurisdictions which impact on money laundering.
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