Unexplained Wealth Orders in use: Here’s at least 5 cases the police should consider today!

Today, Unexplained Wealth Orders (UWOs) come in to force. They are a new inves­tiga­tive pow­er designed to help law enforce­ment act on cor­rupt assets. This is some­thing that Transparency International has been advo­cat­ing for since 2014.

For more on what UWOs are and how they work in prac­tice, see our brief guide here.

They are par­tic­u­lar­ly use­ful where there is no real­is­tic prospect of coop­er­a­tion or con­vic­tion in the coun­try of ori­gin, but there are suf­fi­cient grounds for sus­pi­cion that an asset has been acquired with the pro­ceeds of cor­rup­tion. Based on open source infor­ma­tion, we have pulled togeth­er five cas­es where we believe law enforce­ment should con­sid­er using UWOs in form­ing a case for civ­il recov­ery pro­ceed­ings against poten­tial­ly illic­it wealth.

1. Kenwood Gate, Hampstead Lane, London

Suspected own­er: First fam­i­ly of Azerbaijan
Estimated Value: £18 million

Photo: OCCRP

In 2015, the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) uncov­ered an £18 mil­lion man­sion on Hampstead Lane, North London, belong­ing to the First fam­i­ly of Azerbaijan. According to Land Registry doc­u­ments the man­sion is owned by Beckforth Services Limited – an Isle of Man com­pa­ny. Official com­pa­ny doc­u­ments from 2000 state that Beckforth was con­trolled by Ilham Aliyev, the country’s cur­rent President, and his wife Mehriban, who is his now Vice President. In 2012 the reg­is­tered share­hold­er was record­ed as Leyla Aliyeva, Ilham and Mehriban’s eldest daugh­ter. Since then it has been record­ed as a British Virgin Island com­pa­ny, Sonymore Limited, and then anoth­er Isle of Man com­pa­ny, Locki Limited, of which Leyla was the sole share­hold­er until 2014. Since then Locki’s reg­is­tered share­hold­er has also been Sonymore and its cur­rent share­hold­er is itself as a trustee of anoth­er company.

At the time the prop­er­ty was bought Ilham Aliyev was Vice President of the country’s state-owned oil com­pa­ny, SOCAR, and his father was the country’s President. There is no pub­lic doc­u­men­ta­tion about Ilham’s wealth or income at the time when the house was pur­chased. However, the First fam­i­ly of Azerbaijan are alleged by the OCCRP to have col­lect­ed vast amounts of per­son­al wealth by abus­ing their posi­tions of pow­er. Ilham Aliyev has been the country’s President since 2003 and cur­rent­ly has an offi­cial annu­al salary of £75,000. Although elect­ed offi­cials are not yet required to pub­lish the details of their assets, lat­est esti­mates by the OCCRP claim the Aliyev fam­i­ly hold a glob­al prop­er­ty port­fo­lio worth at least £100 mil­lion, includ­ing £41 mil­lion in London real estate.

2. Flats 138A and 138B, 4 Whitehall Court, London

Suspected own­er: Igor Shuvalov, Russian First Deputy Prime Minister
Estimated Value: £11.44 million

Photo: OCCRP

In 2014 the First Deputy Prime Minister of Russia, Igor Shuvalov, pub­lished an anti-cor­rup­tion dec­la­ra­tion which showed amongst oth­er prop­er­ties, he rent­ed a flat in London just 10 min­utes’ walk from the Houses of Parliament. Contrary to this, how­ev­er, anti-cor­rup­tion cam­paign­er Alexey Navalny alleges that Shuvalov owns flats Flat 138A and Flat 138B in 4 Whitehall Court, which in total are worth £11.44 million.

Land reg­istry doc­u­ments show the prop­er­ties are owned by Sova Real Estate LLC, which accord­ing to offi­cial records obtained by Navalny indi­cate is owned by Shuvalov and his wife. It is unclear how Shuvalov was able to afford the apart­ments. His 2014 asset dec­la­ra­tion lists his offi­cial salary as £112,000 mean­ing it would take him 76 years to pay for these Westminster prop­er­ties. The val­ue of the flats also exceeds the joint wealth of Shuvalov and his wife, which are list­ed on his 2014 dec­la­ra­tion as £634,000.

When ques­tioned about his own­er­ship of for­eign prop­er­ties, Shuvalov acknowl­edged that he owned a num­ber of prop­er­ties through hold­ing com­pa­nies in a 2014 inter­view how­ev­er Navalny claims he has nev­er spo­ken pub­licly about the London property.

3. Down House and Fairview, Chestnut Avenue, Guildford

Suspected own­er: Ahmed Mahmoud Azwai, for­mer Libyan Major General
Price: £1 million

Photo: Buzzfeed News

These two prop­er­ties, worth a com­bined val­ue of £1 mil­lion, are owned by a British Virgin Islands (BVI) com­pa­ny called ATT Universal Holdings Limited. According to a Buzzfeed inves­ti­ga­tion in 2016, this BVI com­pa­ny is con­trolled by Ahmed Mahmoud Azwai, a for­mer Major General dur­ing Muammar Qaddafi’s regime who was respon­si­ble for the country’s long-range mis­sile stockpile.

We under­stand from avail­able infor­ma­tion that the state salary for Major General’s in the Libyan arms is around £4,000 per year. During his time in pub­lic ser­vice he did not release any dec­la­ra­tions stat­ing his per­son­al assets or income.

4. 7 and 8 Whittaker Street, Belgravia, London

Suspected own­er: Bukola Saraki, President Nigerian Senate
Price: £9 mil­lion and £6 million

Photo: Google Maps

Land Registry doc­u­ments show that these two address­es are owned by Landfield International Developments Limited and Renocon Property Development Limited. Based on cur­rent mar­ket esti­mates by Zoopla, the prop­er­ties are worth a com­bined total of around £15 mil­lion. According to data released as part of the Panama Papers, these com­pa­nies were con­trolled by Toyin Saraki, the wife of the President of the Nigerian Senate, Bukola Saraki as well as one of his per­son­al aides. At the time of these rev­e­la­tions, none of these off­shore hold­ings were report­ed in Saraki’s offi­cial asset declarations.

Previous pub­lic dis­clo­sures by Saraki have indi­cat­ed he has high lev­els of unex­plained wealth. In 2003, his asset dec­la­ra­tion showed he had amassed tens of mil­lions of pounds worth of assets dur­ing his time as direc­tor of Société Générale Bank and Special Assistant to the President on Budget. The expla­na­tion he pro­vid­ed for these acqui­si­tions was stat­ed sim­ply as “busi­ness”. Saraki is involved in anongo­ing court case around alle­ga­tions of false asset dec­la­ra­tions from his tenure as Governor of Kwara state.

When asked by The Guardian about these prop­er­ties, Saraki stat­ed said he had declared all his assets cor­rect­ly and in accor­dance with Nigerian legislation.

5. 16–16a Avenfield House and 17–17a Avenfield House, Park Lane, London

Suspected own­er: Nawaz Sharif, for­mer Prime Minister of Pakistan
Price: At least £8 million

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.

Written by Transparency International UK

Unexplained Wealth Orders in use: Here’s at least 5 cas­es the police should con­sid­er today!

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