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Unexplained wealth orders
On 31 January 2018, a new tool directed at the investigation of illicit wealth entered into force in England and Wales and Scotland. 1 Situated between sections 362A and 362I Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (POCA 2002), the provisions for an unexplained wealth order (UWO) were introduced by section 1 of the Criminal Finances Act 2017 (CFA 2017), which amends Part 8 POCA 2002. Their arrival makes the UK one of the few common law jurisdictions to have a UWO framework, alongside Ireland and Australia who were early adopters. The provisions mark an important development in the law of the UK. Typically, courts determine matters relating to disclosure once a civil or criminal investigation has developed, during the course of civil proceedings, or where a defendant seeks to explain the legitimate origin of their assets in confiscation proceedings following criminal conviction. However, a UWO does not require any civil or criminal proceedings to have commenced and may be sought as a first step in an investigation.
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