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Unexplained Wealth Orders

Home Office

Estimated Completion, October 2016

An Unexplained Wealth Order (UWO) power would be used to help freeze the assets of individuals who are reasonably suspected to have been enriched by criminal activity, including corruption. If the individual is unable to refuse to explain the source of the suspicious wealth, this can be used as evidence to help law enforcement seize assets through an existing civil recovery process.

Unexplained Wealth Orders


Corrupt people cannot steal public funds unless they have a safe place to hide them. There is growing evidence that the UK has become a safe haven for corrupt individuals and their assets. In March 2017 we identified London properties worth a total of £4.2 billion that were bought by individuals with suspicious wealth.

Currently, UK law enforcement has limited power to seize corrupt assets. At present, little can be done to act on highly suspicious wealth unless there is a legal conviction in the country of origin. In cases where the origin country is in crisis or the individual holds power within a corrupt government, this can take decades to obtain or is unlikely to be achieved at all, producing a mere trickle of results against a torrent of corrupt illicit funds.

Since 2015 Transparency International UK has been advocating for the introduction of Unexplained Wealth Order (UWO) powers, an investigative tool that helps law enforcement act on suspicious wealth.


At the Anti-Corruption Summit, the UK committed to consult on “stronger asset recovery legislation, including non-conviction based confiscation powers and the introduction of Unexplained Wealth Orders”.

Suspects issued with a UWO would be required to explain legitimate and legal sources of wealth for suspicious UK assets or transactions, provided there is enough initial suspicion of criminality. An inadequate response to a UWO – or no response whatsoever – together with the initial grounds for suspicion, could then be grounds to kick-start a civil recovery process against the assets in question.


The UK passed Unexplained Wealth Orders into law on 27 April 2017, as an element of its Criminal Finances Act. UWOs will empower UK law enforcement agencies to target corrupt money flowing into the UK and more easily return it to those from whom it has been stolen. We are now calling on the Government to ensure these powers are used effectively to target all suspicious wealth being brought into the UK. As Duncan Hames, TI-UK’s Director of Policy, said:

“Any law is only as good as its implementation and we now call on law enforcement agencies to use Unexplained Wealth Orders as soon as they are empowered to do so, and the next Government to ensure they are properly resourced. The £4.2billion worth of London properties we identified as having been bought with suspicious wealth represent low-hanging fruit for Unexplained Wealth Orders and ought to be a good starting point for their use. We look forward to announcements from the National Crime Agency that they have initiated proceedings and expect to see a significant dent in this £4.2billion worth of London property in the first twelve months.”

Read more about Unexplained Wealth Orders here

Unexplained Wealth Orders “As significant in fighting corruption as the Bribery Act”

Empowering the UK to recovery corrupt assets

A Kick in the Assets: Proposals to Help Recover Corrupt Assets


Rachel Davies, Transparency International UK’s Head of Advocacy, tells you everything you need to know about Unexplained Wealth Orders. Why are they needed? How do they work? What was Transparency International’s role in bringing them to law? And what is next?   Read a brief guide to Unexplained Wealth Orders here: http://www.transparency.org.uk/unexplained-wealth-orders-a-brief-guide/