What is an Unexplained Wealth Order (UWO)?

Don Lawson Knoxville

On November 6, 2018, Zamira Hajiyeva, the wife of jailed banker Jahangir Hajiyev was charged under the United Kingdom’s first Unexplained Wealth Order (UWO).  UWO’s area new crime-fighting provision that was introduced in the UK earlier this year as part of their Criminal Finances Act 2017.  The logic behind UWO’s is to help stem the flow of large sums of illegal money flooding London.

What is The Principle of Reverse Onus?

UWOs use a very uncommon principle of law known as Reverse Onus.  This concept essentially requires the accused to prove they are innocent of an alleged crime.  This concept is completely foreign to Americans, where all accused are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Under the UK’s UWO, investigators have the right to question anyone with assets greater the £50,000 (roughly $65,000 USD) to explain how they can afford such assets if it just appears their income is not sufficient to support their assets.  If a person cannot prove to the Court’s satisfaction that he/she earned their assets, those assets can be seized and not returned.

Mrs. Hajiyeva is the first person to be successfully charged under the UK’s UWO and must now prove the source of her wealth or risk losing her assets and face extradition back to Azerbaijan for criminal prosecution.

What is Mrs. Hajiyeva Accused of Spending?

Mrs. Hajiyeva’s “Unexplained Wealth” came to the government’s attention in grand fashion.  Among other things, she is accused of spending nearly $21,000,000 at an upscale department store (Harrods) from 2006 to 2016, owning nearly $29,000,000 in London real estate, spending $42,000,000 on a Gulfstream G550 jet, as well as numerous other lavish expenditures all while having no visible means of income.

According to the Financial Times, Mrs. Hajiyeva’s husband, Jahangir Hajiyev, the former chairman of the International Bank of Azerbaijan, was jailed in 2016 after being convicted of embezzlement relating to the lender. The Azeri government now wants the UK to extradite Mrs. Hajiyeva to stand trial on two embezzlement charges in Baku, a London court was told on Tuesday.

Is Reverse Onus Helping?

While the concept of Reverse Onus is certainly foreign to Americans, it appears to be a concept that Europeans are going to become very familiar with.  According to the Wall Street Journal, The Global Anti-Corruption Coalition “Transparency International” has identified more than $5.7 billion worth of property across the U.K. that it considers was purchased with suspicious wealth.

Let Us Help You With Your Wealth

This may be the UK’s first UWO, but it certainly does not appear to be its last. If you are struggling to get by and need help financially, don’t continue to dig yourself into bigger trouble. Contact one of our offices to receive a free consultation regarding your financial well-being.

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