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A sea change in the longstanding concept of the presumption of innocence

While many of us would just be happy to have some wealth, this week, in the courts, has thrown up the strange new concept of Unexplained Wealth Orders or UWOs.  Zamira Hajiyeva is a prolific shopper, and puts my wife firmly in the shade.  Over the past 10 years she has bought a private jet and spent a cool £16 million in Harrods!

She has not stolen the jet and all the goods from Harrods have been paid for, so why should the courts be interested?

A smart cookie at the National Crime Agency has come with the concept of UWO.  This basically means that where there is no obvious legitimate source of your wealth, you will be called upon to explain by comprehensive accounting that your means come from legitimate and legal sources.  If you can’t do that you run the risk that court action will be taken to recover and forfeit your ill-gotten gains.

This is a sea change in the longstanding concept of the presumption of innocence.  Where these UWOs touch the rich and have no impact on the ordinary man or woman there will be little regard for such an intrusion.  However, this marked departure from such a central concept to our justice system may be starting an evolution of our legal system to secure “efficient justice”.

The favourable response of the courts to UWOs means that Mrs Hajiyeva is likely to be first of many.  London has been a favourite haunt of the foreign “investor” for many years but that may be set to change.  For those looking for a relaxed jurisdiction in which to squirrel away their illicit wealth they will be thinking again about the UK.  This is not going to impact on us mere mortals but watch this space for developments in the ownership of our football clubs and prestigious properties.


Robert Honeyman


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