The wife of a foreign banker risks losing millions of pounds in property unless she can explain how her fortune was made, a new report reveals.
The story, first published in the Guardian newspaper, follows a unique ruling in the High Court in which the family was subject to the UK’s first ever unexplained wealth order (UWO).
In National Crime Agency v Mrs A, the court heard that the wife, whose name has not been revealed for legal reasons, had spent £16 million at Harrods over 10 years and purchased a property for £11.5 million via a company based in the British Virgin Islands (BVI).
Mrs A applied for indefinite leave to remain in the UK in 2015, telling the Home Office that she was the beneficial owner of the BVI company.
However, Caribbean tax officials informed NCA investigators that the company’s true owner was her husband, Mr A.
Mr A’s dubious past, having been accused of “misappropriation, abuse of office, large-scale fraud and embezzlement” at a former state-owned bank he used to be the chairman of, raised suspicions that the family’s fortune was not acquired legally.
The UWO was issued against the family in February this year, freezing the property and requiring Mrs A to explain how she had obtained the significant funds required to purchase it.
An appeal against the judgment was dismissed by a High Court judge earlier this month, meaning the wife risks losing properties valued in the region of £22 million.
Commenting on the ruling, Donald Toon, NCA Director for Economic Crime, said: “I am very pleased that the court dismissed the respondent’s arguments today. 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.”
Mrs A was given seven days from 3 October to appeal the decision and apply for her anonymity to be extended.