Three properties worth £80m have been frozen until the owner can explain the source of their wealth, says the National Crime Agency
New so-called McMafia laws that give crime investigators the power to hold valuable assets if they believe they've been bought with dirty money, have been used against three multi-million pound London properties.
The National Crime Agency (NCA) secured the Unexplained Wealth Orders (UWOs) last week as part of an investigation into London property linked to a “politically exposed person believed to be involved in serious crime”.
Though the NCA has not disclosed the name of the person, nor the locations of the properties, it confirms that they are all residential properties in prime locations, originally bought for over £80m and now held by offshore companies.
The order demands that the individual in question disclose the source of their wealth. An interim freezing order has also been granted which means that the three properties cannot be sold, transferred or dissipated while investigations continue.
UWOs came into force on 31 January 2018 and have been dubbed McMafia laws following the popular TV programme which centres around organised crime and money laundering.
Andy Lewis, head of asset denial at the NCA, said: “This is the second time the NCA has successfully secured UWOs since the new legislation was enacted. They are a powerful tool in being able to investigate illicit finance flowing into the UK and discourage it happening in the first place.
UWOs were first used against Zamira Hajiyeva after it emerged that she'd racked up a £16m bill in Harrods. Image: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
“The individuals behind these offshore companies now have to explain how the three properties were obtained. The NCA will not shy away from complex and detailed investigations against high profile individuals and professional enablers.”
Crackdown on illicit funds
Graeme Biggar, director general of the National Economic Crime Centre, said: “The purchase of prime property in London is a tactic used to launder money and we will use all the powers available to us to target those who try to do this.
“A priority for the NECC is to ensure we explore every opportunity to deny assets linked to illicit finance. Our aim is to prevent misuse of the UK’s financial structures which undermines the integrity of the UK’s economy and institutions.”
UWOs were used for the first time last year against Zamira Hajiyeva, wife of a jailed Azerbaijani banker, when it emerged that she'd spent over £16 million in Harrods over a 10-year period. An £11 million Chelsea house along with a £10 million Berkshire golf course, both owned by Ms Hajijeva, were consequently frozen.
This week, the High Court upheld the UWOs against Zamira Hajiyeva, though she has been granted permission to appeal the High Court's decision.
Main photo: An address in Mayfair belonging to Zamira Hajiyeva - Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire/PA Images.
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