NEWS “without comment”
UWO – Unexplained Wealth Orders
By Jake Ryan For The Mail On Sunday
Published: 21:38, 21 November 2020
Britain’s FBI takes down the ‘McMafia’ millionaires: National Crime Agency targets people-smuggling kingpins and threatens to seize their property portfolios in crackdown on organised crime gangs
The NCA’s ‘asset denial’ unit is building dozens of cases to stop organised crime
Unexplained Wealth Orders will be used to target crime bosses and seize assets
Many organised crime bosses have extensive property portfolios across the UK
People smuggling kingpins are being targeted by crime fighters in cases where ‘McMafia orders’ could be used to seize their assets, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.
The National Crime Agency – dubbed Britain’s FBI – has revealed that its ‘asset denial’ unit is currently building dozens of cases to ‘cut the head of the hydra’ off organised crime.
The unit’s chief Andy Lewis said people smuggling gangs and Covid-19 fraudsters were on the agency’s radar for the recovery of assets including extensive property portfolios.
He vowed to increase the use of anti-corruption Unexplained Wealth Orders (UWOs), dubbed ‘McMafia orders’ after the hit BBC drama, to target the ‘so-called untouchables’ of organised crime.
Asked whether the NCA is actively looking to build asset seizure cases against people smuggling gangs and fraudsters, Mr Lewis said: ‘Yes we are, we will use UWOs where they are the best tools to use.
‘That could be against people smuggling gangs, and could be against fraudsters, against anybody where we have reasonable grounds to suspect the property they have purchased has been derived from unlawful conduct.
‘We decide whether it’s best to take civil action against them and will decide whether a UWO is the best way to go – we target where it will have the greatest effect.
What is an unexplained wealth order (UWO)?
A UWO – a power brought into force in January 2018 under so-called ‘McMafia laws’ – named after the BBC organised crime drama and the book which inspired it – allows the NCA and other agencies to freeze someone’s assets.
They can do this if they believe the owner is a ‘politically exposed person’ and they are unable to explain the source of their wealth.