The UWOs, which were obtained at the High Court last week, are for three residential properties in prime locations – originally bought for more than £80m and held by offshore companies. Investigators are looking into the funds used to purchase the properties.

Interim Freezing Orders have also been granted which means that the properties cannot be sold, transferred or dissipated while the investigation continues.

Andy Lewis, Head of Asset Denial at the NCA, said “This is the second time the NCA has successfully secured UWOs since the new legislation was enacted. They are a powerful tool in being able to investigate illicit finance flowing into the UK and discourage it happening in the first place. The individuals behind these offshore companies now have to explain how the three properties were obtained. The NCA will not shy away from complex and detailed investigations against high profile individuals and professional enablers.”

Graeme Biggar, Director General of the National Economic Crime Centre said “The purchase of prime property in London is a tactic used to launder money and we will use all the powers available to us to target those who try to do this. A priority for the NECC is to ensure we explore every opportunity to deny assets linked to illicit finance. Our aim is to prevent misuse of the UK’s financial structures which undermines the integrity of the UK’s economy and institutions.”

Responding to the UWOs Chris Laws, Head of Product & Strategy at Dun & Bradstreet said “The NCA’s investigation into potential corruption in the London housing market is another example of the continuing fight against money laundering. There was a 20% increase in money laundering last year compared to 2017 and financial crime is often hard to identify, making prosecution challenging. While this is a focus for government, the responsibility to stamp out illicit or nefarious activities shouldn’t just sit squarely with regulators.”

“Businesses have a role to play to ensure they have robust compliance processes in place (including Know Your Customer (KYC) and Know your Vendor (KYV)) to identify whether suppliers, customers or other agents they work with are involved in corruption, money laundering or bribery. Advanced KYC and KYV solutions utilise Artificial Intelligence (AI) to map business relationships and untangle a large volume of data to develop an accurate view of compliance activities. Investment in AI can also reduce the amount of time spent on manual processes, therefore allowing compliance experts to devote their attention to investigating any suspicious activity and mitigating risk.”