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NCA refused permission to appeal in landmark Unexplained Wealth Orders case

Posted on 19 June 2020

The Court of Appeal has today dismissed an application by the National Crime Agency (NCA) for permission to appeal a judgment of the High Court discharging three Unexplained Wealth Orders (UWOs) originally obtained by the NCA in relation to three London properties in May 2019.

The High Court judgment, handed down in April 2020, found that the UWOs obtained by the NCA should be discharged on the basis that there were serious errors in the NCA's approach to obtaining and seeking to maintain the UWOs, and that the material voluntarily provided by Mishcon de Reya on behalf of the Respondents to the UWOs and the ultimate beneficial owners of the properties in question represented cogent evidence in rebuttal of the NCA's case. The judgment represented the first successful challenge to an UWO since the introduction of the legislation in 2018.

Having been denied permission to appeal the judgment by the High Court, the NCA applied for permission to appeal from the Court of Appeal. In its decision, the Court of Appeal held that any appeal by the NCA had "no real prospect of success" and that there was "no other compelling reason why an appeal should be heard".

Johanna Walsh, Partner at Mishcon de Reya, who acted for the Respondents and the UBOs of the properties, commented:

"The Court of Appeal has agreed with Lang J that the NCA’s appeal had no real prospect of success nor was there any other compelling reason why it should be heard. My clients are pleased to have succeeded in their challenge to these orders although disappointed that they had to make their applications at all having tried to resolve the issues without the need for litigation. Lang J's ruling confirmed that there are important and necessary limitations to the Unexplained Wealth Order scheme. It is essential that, in future cases, the NCA and other UK enforcement authorities are mindful of those constraints."

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