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Banker’s wife may lose UK property worth £22 million

High Court dismisses challenge to unexplained wealth order

The wife of an imprisoned banker has failed in an attempt to have dismissed an order requiring her to explain how she came to acquire UK property worth £22m.

In February 2018 the National Crime Agency had secured an unexplained wealth order against the woman, referred to 'Mrs A'. Such orders allow enforcement agencies to challenge owners of assets worth more than £50,000 to explain how they afforded those assets.

The property was bought in 2009 for £11.5m via a company in the British Virgin Islands. A mortgage facility of up to £7,475,000 was also taken out against the property from Barclays Suisse. That was subsequently discharged.

In 2015, Mrs A applied for indefinite leave to remain in the UK and told the Home Office that she was the beneficial owner of the BVI company. However, the BVI Financial Investigation Agency told NCA investigators that the company's true owner was Mrs A's husband, Mr A. From March 2001 to March 2015, Mr A was the chairman of a bank in a non-EEA country. The Bank was the largest bank in the country, in which the State had a controlling stake. On 5 December 2015 he was arrested and subsequently charged with various offences including misappropriation, abuse of office, large-scale fraud and embezzlement in connection with the Bank. On 14 October 2016 he was convicted and sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment. In addition, he was ordered to pay the Bank a sum of approximately $39m.

In National Crime Agency v Mrs A [2018] EWHC 2534 (Admin), the woman applied to the High Court for the order to be dismissed. The application was refused by Mr Justice Supperstone.

Donald Toon, NCA Director for Economic Crime, commented:

"I am very pleased that the court dismissed the respondent's arguments. This demonstrates that the NCA is absolutely right to ask probing questions about the funds used to purchase prime property. We will continue with this case and seek to quickly move others to the High Court. We are determined to use the powers available to us to their fullest extent where we have concerns that we cannot determine legitimate sources of wealth."

For the judgment, click here. For coverage in the Guardian, click here.

8/10/18