On the 17th April 2018 the police were given new powers which are now being used to freeze the bank accounts of wealthy London based foreign nationals.
Since then, we have represented a number of HNW’s who have had their bank accounts frozen on the application of the National Crime Agency, who can take up to 2 years to complete their enquiries. These new laws are in our opinion draconian and subvert the normal rules of due process because the orders can be obtained even where the person concerned is not accused of, let alone convicted, of any criminal offence.
And more are to come. Last week we were told by NCA lawyers that they were adopting an aggressive policy to apply for these orders which is “gaining significant momentum.”
Freezing someone’s bank account freezing order is an invasive and onerous measure. With no access to funds for everyday expenses these orders can make life very difficult for those concerned.
And there is no guarantee that the authorities will ultimately be successful in persuading an English Court that any money seized should be forfeited. Judges in this jurisdiction have traditionally been reluctant to order the forfeiture of property save where there is clear evidence that indicates a link with criminal conduct.
Time will tell how successful these measures will be and whether their use as with UWO's will be widespread or restricted to cases where for good reason a criminal investigation is not appropriate.
Read Roger Sahota's guide for the Law Society Gazette on the Criminal Finances Act 2017.
If you require advice in relation to an Account Freezing Order or Unexplained Wealth Order investigation please call our London Office.