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Nicola Sharp outlines why unexplained wealth orders may have a better future

Author: Nicola Sharp  2 August 2022

With the government’s Foreign Affairs Committee having described unexplained wealth orders (UWOs) as “spectacularly unsuccessful’’, Nicola Sharp assessed the problems surrounding the orders.

In an article, which was published by FT Adviser, she details the criticisms of UWOs and explains why they could become more popular with enforcement agencies in the future.

UWOs were introduced by the Criminal Finances Act 2017 to enable law enforcement agencies to force individuals or companies to explain how they obtained certain assets that are believed to have been obtained illegally. They are available to the National Crime Agency, Serious Fraud Office, Crown Prosecution Service, the Financial Conduct Authority and HM Revenue and Customs. Yet so far, only nine orders have been issued; despite government predictions there would be about 20 a year.

A lack of resources at the agencies and the risks involved were cited by the Committee as reasons why UWOs have not been popular. The amount of evidence put forward by targets of UWOs and the legal fees that an agency may have to pay out if a UWO proves unsuccessful have been identified as major deterrents to their use.

But Nicola refers to the Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Act 2022, which gives agencies more time to investigate material received in response to a UWO and ensures that agencies no longer risk having to pay unlimited legal costs for an unsuccessful UWO application. The Act also creates a new category of person that can receive a UWO and new criteria for applying for one.

She explains that there is now greater scope for using UWOs. This may, she argues, make them more attractive to enforcement agencies.

You can read Nicola's article on the FT Adviser. (Subscription required)

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Nicola Sharp


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Nicola is known for her fraud, civil recovery, arbitration and business crime expertise, her experience of leading the largest financial disputes and multinational investigations and her skills in devising preventative measures and conducting internal investigations for corporates.

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