Malta appears to have shelved plans to make unexplained wealth orders a part of its legal system.
An attempt by Minister for Justice, Dr Edward Zammit Lewis, to introduce a law that would make unexplained wealth orders (UWOs) an option available to the authorities has been put on hold due to a reported lack of support within government.
UWOs are used to tackle money laundering and corruption. They provide a means for law enforcement agencies to freeze or recover assets when there is a reasonable suspicion that those assets have been gained through criminal activity. When a UWO is issued, the respondent has to explain how they obtained the asset in question. A failure to do so can see the asset classed as recoverable property, which will lead to efforts to have it taken from the respondent through civil recovery procedures.
Earlier this year, the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) obtained UWOs on properties and assets that allegedly belonged to Rakhat Aliyev, the former deputy chief of Kazakhstan’s security service who spent time in exile in Malta. But Aliyev’s former wife and his son successfully challenged the UWOs at the UK’s High Court, having highlighted faults in the NCA case.
It is perhaps not surprising that the concept of UWOs has not gained much support in Malta. Malta has been sharply criticised in the past for having less than adequate systems and controls in place for tackling money laundering and financial crime.
Yet the NCA’s failings regarding the UWOs targeting the Aliyev family may have also done little to bolster support for introducing such orders into Maltese law. This UK example showed that if all aspects of the UWO process are not carried out perfectly then the fallout for the authority seeking the order can be catastrophic.
This article originally featured on Mondaq, it can be read here.