Belfast Telegraph

Unexplained wealth orders stalled by Stormont impasse

New power would force suspected serious criminals to disclose how they financed property.

New powers to seize unexplained wealth from suspected serious criminals in Northern Ireland have not been introduced because no ministers are in place.

The special court orders put the burden on an individual to prove how he or she obtained property worth more than £50,000.

The measure was introduced in the rest of the UK last month.

A High Court judge can issue an Unexplained Wealth Order (UWO) requiring a person reasonably suspected of involvement in, or of being connected to a person involved in, serious crime to explain the nature and extent of their interest in particular property, and show how the property was obtained.

It is confined to cases where there are reasonable grounds to suspect that the individual’s known lawfully obtained income would be insufficient to allow him or her to obtain the property, an explanatory Home Office note said.

A failure to provide a response to a UWO may give rise to a presumption that the property is recoverable under any subsequent civil recovery action.

If evidence is produced in response, then a decision will be made on how to proceed using that material.

The subsequent use of the material may include referring the evidence to another body to consider criminal or civil action.

Evidence compelled under a UWO cannot normally be used against the person who provided it in any subsequent criminal prosecution, notes on the new power in England said.

A Justice Department official in Northern Ireland confirmed that the devolved power had not been introduced in the absence of ministers but was among measures planned for the future.

Stormont collapsed a year ago over the botched green energy scheme and repeated rounds of talks have failed to secure its restoration.

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