The wife of a banker has lost her appeal against an order challenging her to explain how she came to acquire properties worth £22m. However, her identity will remain private for now.
In a judgment handed down this morning Mr Justice Supperstone dismissed an attempt by the woman, known as ‘Mrs A’, to throw out the National Crime Agency’s (NCA) application for an unexplained wealth order (UWO).
A UWO is a new legislative power handed to enforcement agencies that allow them to challenge owners of assets worth more than £50,000 to explain how they afforded them if their income appears too low.
In dismissing the appeal Supperstone also ruled that previous restrictions banning the identification of ‘Mrs A’ should be lifted. However, the anonymity order is to remain in place pending an appeal by her lawyers.
During the earlier trial the court heard details of the spending habits of ‘Mrs A’, including that she splurged more than £16m at Harrods over the course of a decade. She was said to be the wife of a former prominant banker in a country that has not been revealed but is outside the European Economic Area.
The NCA alleges that the money – and the money used to acquire the properties – was cash that her husband embezzled when he was employed by the bank. Her husband is not part of these proceedings.
So far, the names of the woman, her husband, the bank and their country of origin have all been subject to reporting restrictions.
Although Supperstone said he was satisfied that it was in the public interest to report these facts and lift the anonymity order he stayed his order pending an appeal by Mrs A’s lawyers to the Court of Appeal.
Supperstone said her legal team has seven days within which to file their grounds of appeal before the anonymity order lapses.
Reacting to today’s judgment, Donald Toon, NCA director for economic crime, said: ‘I am very pleased that the court dismissed the respondent’s arguments today. This demonstrates that the NCA is absolutely right to ask probing questions about the funds used to purchase prime property. We will continue with this case and seek to quickly move others to the High Court. We are determined to use the powers available to us to their fullest extent where we have concerns that we cannot determine legitimate sources of wealth.’