The owner of the properties, believed to be a foreign person who may be at risk of corruption or bribery, will be required to explain how they obtained the properties.
A failure to respond or comply with the order could lead to the properties being seized, and providing false or misleading information could lead to imprisonment for up to two years.
The McMafia law
UWOs, colloquially termed the ‘McMafia law’ came into force on 31 January 2018, and enables investigators to require a ‘politically exposed person’ to explain the origins of their assets.
A politically exposed person is someone from outside the European Economic Area who is in a prominent position which makes them vulnerable to corruption and bribery, or someone with suspected links to serious crime.
The NCA obtained the order from the High Court, and said it will not identify individuals at this stage of the investigation to avoid disrupting the outcome.
This is the first time such orders have been granted, and will be the first time the legislation will be tested through court.
In addition to the UWOs, interim freezing orders were granted, meaning that the properties cannot be sold, transferred or dissipated while subject to the investigation.
Donald Toon, director for economic crime at the NCA, said: “Unexplained wealth orders have the potential to significantly reduce the appeal of the UK as a destination for illicit income.
“They enable the UK to more effectively target the problem of money laundering through prime real estate in London and elsewhere.
“We are determined to use all of the powers available to us to combat the flow of illicit monies into, or through, the UK.”