Unexplained Wealth Orders (UWOs) extend the powers available to UK law enforcement authorities under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (POCA), enabling investigators to ask people who are holding assets, which based on their legitimate income they would not be able to afford, to prove that such assets were obtained from legitimate sources. If the person can’t prove the assets are from a legitimate source, then the authorities can take steps to recover those assets.

How do UWOs work? What role do interim freezing orders play in the process? What are the penalties for non-compliance? How have UWOs been used thus far in the public domain? For answers to these questions, see Prove It or Lose It! – Part I: Unexplained Wealth Orders.

The UWO is the beginning of a journey that can result in assets being taken away from their owners by the state through commencement of civil legal proceedings. UK politicians and law enforcement agents have trumpeted these non-conviction-based asset-recovery powers for their ability to recover and rid the UK of laundered assets. However, many obstacles remain in pursuit of this goal. See Prove It or Lose It! Part II: Civil Recovery Orders for a review of these civil-recovery powers under POCA against the backdrop of UWOs.