UK anti-corruption drive holds threats for Gulf investors

Published in GSN, 6 June 2019

Wealthy investors would be well advised to take note of the growing use of unexplained wealth orders (UWOs) by the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA). UWOs are a power given to the NCA and a number of other bodies in January 2018, via the Criminal Finances Act 2017. London property, a favoured asset class for many Gulf nationals, is proving to be the main target of the orders so far.

On 29 May, the NCA revealed it had secured High Court approval for a second tranche of UWOs, enabling it to seize £80m ($101.5m)-worth of residential properties in London held by unnamed politically exposed persons (PEPs) via offshore companies. It follows the first case involving UWOs in February 2018, which involved two properties worth £22m in and around London belonging to jailed Azerbaijani banker Jahangir Hajiyev and his wife Zamira Hajiyeva, whose spending at Harrods has led to Hajiyeva becoming an unlikely celebrity in British media.

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