Three London properties worth £80m frozen under McMafia laws

Investigators are using so-called McMafia laws to force the owner of three London properties worth £80 million to explain the source of their wealth.

The National Crime Agency (NCA) said it is investigating whether the prime location properties, held by offshore companies, were paid for with dirty money.

Freezing orders have been put in place to stop them being sold, transferred or dissipated while the inquiry takes place.

Graeme Biggar, director general of the National Economic Crime Centre, which is part of the NCA, 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.”

Unexplained wealth orders were brought in as part of powers dubbed McMafia laws, after the BBC TV drama series and a factual book that inspired it.

The orders, which came into force at the beginning of 2018, allow investigators to look into the source of wealth of politically exposed persons (PEPs).

McMafia.
The powers have been dubbed McMafia laws, after the BBC TV drama series and a factual book that inspired it (BBC/PA)

These are people from outside the European Economic Area in a position of power that makes them liable to bribery or corruption, or those with suspected links to serious or organised crime, who are unable explain the source of their wealth.

This is the second case in which the NCA has used unexplained wealth orders.

The first was against Zamira Hajiyeva, the wife of jailed Azerbaijani banker Jahangir Hajiyev, who spent £16 million at Harrods, including £600,000 in one day.

Zamira Hajiyeva court case
The home of Jahangir and Zamira Hajiyeva on Walton Street, Knightsbridge (PA file)

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.”

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