New law UWOs related to properties owned by foreigners enforced in UK

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LONDON: Unexplained wealth orders (UWOs) – a new power for law enforcement that will help target suspected corrupt wealth – have come into operation in the UK. Transparency International UK has campaigned for these powers since 2014, identifying £4.4 billion worth of property in the UK that should be considered as possible candidates for UWOs.
The effective use of these new powers has the potential to help curb the use of the UK’s property market as a safe haven for corrupt cash. Rachel Davies Teka, Head of Advocacy Transparency International UK, said: “The introduction of Unexplained Wealth Orders is a significant moment in the fight against dirty money flowing into the UK.
They will allow law enforcement to much more easily investigate assets that are highly likely to have been bought using corrupt money, often stolen from populations in some of the poorest parts of the world.” Initially, Transparency International have submitted details to the government about five properties owned by foreigners.
Among them two properties allegedly are owned by Nawaz Sharif and family. These are 16-16a Avenfield House and 17-17a Avenfield House, Park Lane, London Suspected owner is stated Nawaz Sharif, former Prime Minister of Pakistan and price at least £8 million and £9million and £6millionrespectively.
The TI, UK claims that land Registry documents show that these four properties are owned by two companies registered in the BVI: Nescoll Limited and Nielsen Limited. According to information published as part of the Panama Papers, these companies were controlled by the former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif.
In 2017, Pakistani authorities initiated an investigation into these assets, which found that they were purchased without a mortgage between 1993 and 1995, just after Sharif reported a growth in wealth without any plausible declared source of income. In July 2017, Sharif was removed from office after the investigation found that he had failed to disclose these properties on his official asset declaration Under the new rules, which are designed to stop corrupt people from using Britain as a safe haven, individuals can be fined and jailed if they make misleading statements.
The order that came into force recently allows authorities to freeze and recover property of more than 50,000 pounds if individuals cannot explain why they own assets worth more than their income and show they have acquired them legally. It is seen as unprecedented as it — like Pakistan’s National Accountability Bureau laws — shifts the burden of proof to the property holder instead of the state.
The new law can also be problematic for some Pakistani politicians as the enforcement authorities don’t need to show that they actually own the property as properties owned by their “associates” can also be subject to the new powers. Another thing that goes against Pakistani politicians is lower threshold as “a UWO [Unexplained Wealth Order] made in relation to a non-EEA [European Economic Area] PEP [Politically Exposed Person]would not require suspicion of serious criminality”. Although the British media is looking at the Unexplained Wealth Order (UWO), which came into force on Feb 1, as a weapon to fight corruption by Russian oligarchs having assets in the UK, the new law can have serious implications for Pakistani personalities having properties and assets here. London-based anti-corruption group Transparency International (TI) says it has identified properties worth 4.4 billion pounds in Britain that should be considered as possible candidates for the new legislation.
“According to information published as part of Panama Papers, these companies were controlled by the former prime minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif. In 2017, Pakistani authorities initiated an investigation into these assets, which found that they were purchased without a mortgage between 1993 and 1995, just after Sharif reported a growth in wealth without any plausible declared source of income. In July 2017, Sharif was removed from the office after the investigation found that he had failed to disclose these properties on his official asset declaration,” added TI.