Two homes worth £22 million and owned by a foreign tycoon today became the first to be targeted using a new law to tackle “McMafia” style criminals in Britain.
The National Crime Agency said that the £11 million London home and a mansion of similar value not far from the capital were both on “unexplained wealth orders” that it had obtained from the High Court.
The orders require the owner of the homes to show that they were bought with money from a legitimate source. If he is unable to do so, both will be seized.
The legal action is the first time that unexplained wealth orders have been issued and comes only weeks after legislation allowing them to be obtained came into force.
The action is likely to be welcomed by anti-corruption campaigners who have claimed that London property worth hundreds of millions of pounds has been bought with “dirty money” in recent decades. Ministers have also expressed concern about illicit funds being channelled through London and into high-end property in the capital, while the recent BBC drama “McMafia” has further highlighted the problem.
Full details of the homes targeted under the new orders obtained today have not been disclosed. The identity of their alleged owner, who is believed to hold the properties via associates, will also remain confidential while the court process continues.
Announcing its action today, however, the National Crime Agency said that it had also obtained freezing orders which would prevent either home being sold until the High Court had ruled on the source of the money used to buy them.
It added: “The NCA has secured two unexplained wealth orders to investigate assets totalling £22 million that are believed to ultimately be owned by a ‘politically exposed person’. These are the first such orders granted and represent the first time the legislation will be tested through the court.”
Unexplained wealth orders were introduced under the Criminal Finances Act passed by Parliament last year.