NCA relentless in demand for answers to unexplained wealth

20 February 2020

The NCA announced on 13 February that it had obtained a freezing order preventing the sale of 17 addresses as part of an on-going investigation into a Leeds businessman with suspected links to serious organised criminals. It confirmed that the Property Freezing Order (PFO) covers properties in Leeds, Cheshire and London worth approximately £10.5 million, which are under the control of 39-year-old Mansoor Mahmood Hussain.

This is the latest of several significant actions taken against Mr Hussain by the NCA. In July 2019, as part of the same investigation, the NCA obtained an Unexplained Wealth Order (UWO) relating to eight properties, and in January 2020 secured a £1.13m Account Freezing Order against a company. See our related blog: Subject of Unexplained Wealth Order now hit with Account Freezing Order.

The NCA explains that the application for the PFO followed receipt of Mr Hussain’s response to the UWO (which he is required by law to provide), a response that the NCA alleged did not comply with the requirements of the UWO. This non-compliance was said to be evidence that the properties are the proceeds of crime.

The PFO prevents the sale or transfer of the properties by Mr Hussain (or anyone else), and will enable the NCA to further investigate the source of the funds used to make the original purchases to ascertain whether or not they were derived from unlawful conduct. If so, the NCA may seek the forfeiture of the properties.

With this latest action, it is clear that law enforcement agencies’ appetite to deploy these draconian orders is growing. This follows swiftly on the back of the failed appeal by the subject of the first UWOs, Zamira Hajiyeva – the wife of jailed Azerbaijani banker Jahangir Hajiyev. In early February 2020 the Court of Appeal rejected her challenge to NCA’s action. See our related blogs on UWOs here.

Tackling Illicit Finance and ensuring “no safe haven” for “dirty money” is a government and law enforcement priority. If you are affected by a UWO or an AFO - and we anticipate that ever increasing numbers of individuals will be so affected in the coming months and years - it is critical to obtain specialist legal advice at the earliest possible opportunity. Deciding on the appropriate strategy at the outset will maximise the chances of a positive outcome. Our team of asset forfeiture and proceeds of crime lawyers have extensive experience of challenging these orders and of engaging effectively with law enforcement and the courts.

About the author

Ed Smyth is a Senior Associate in the Criminal Litigation Department and represents individuals and corporates involved across the full spectrum of criminal and quasi-criminal matters. He has considerable experience of confiscation and asset forfeiture proceedings and of challenging the exercise of search and seizure powers. He has acted in cases involving the SFO, the NCA, HMRC, the Information Commissioner, the Electoral Commission and various professional disciplinary bodies.

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