Around £10m of property has been surrendered in a major victory against some of northern England’s most dangerous criminals. The apartments and homes were given up to the National Crime Agency by a Leeds businessman who investigators suspect of being a major money-launderer. Rahman Ravelli’s Senior Partner. Aziz Rahman comments on the latest UWO.
“A UWO gives the authorities an opportunity to seize assets they believe to be the proceeds of crime without anyone ever being convicted. By going down the civil recovery route, the authorities only have to show that on the balance of probabilities there has been unlawful conduct, whereas for a prosecution they need to prove beyond reasonable doubt that a crime was committed.
“It should be remembered, however, that agreeing to settle and hand over property, as in this case, is not an admission of guilt. Anyone facing a UWO must, therefore, consider carefully how they respond to the authorities. It is vitally important to take the right advice. Deciding how to proceed when assets worth millions are at stake can be the biggest decision a person ever has to make.
“While a UWO is a formidable weapon for the authorities, it is usually the case that such a course of action has been chosen because either a prosecution has failed or because it is thought there is not enough evidence for a realistic chance of a conviction. It is important to be aware, therefore, that a strong, intelligent challenge to a UWO can bring success – meaning you keep the assets that the authorities are so keen to separate you from.
“Of the four cases begun since UWOs were introduced, two of the cases are still being contested. And earlier this year, three UWOs relating to prime London property worth tens of millions were discharged after the High Court accepted that the process had been flawed by inadequate investigation by the NCA.
“Given that we are now in a situation where jury trials are not happening in the long and complex cases, it would be logical to expect a significant increase in the use of civil proceedings against suspected criminals. But that just does not seem to be happening.
“This may indicate that the NCA does not believe having UWOs at its disposal means that it holds all the aces.”