Criminal Finances Act 2017
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.