Three multi-million homes in London has been seized as part of the National Crime Agency’s Unexplained Wealth Order (UWO) powers, or so-called ‘McMafia law’. The properties in Hampstead, Chelsea, and Highgate were bought with a total of £80 million and held by offshore companies. All of the properties are owned by high profile Kazakhstan citizens.
UWOs give the NCA the power to seize assets suspected to have been obtained with the proceeds of crime, if they believe that the owner is a ‘politically exposed person’ who cannot explain the source of their wealth. It is only the second time a UWO has been used in Britain and prevents the sale or disposal of the property by other means.
The Hampstead property is the home of the former Kazakh president’s grandson, Nurali Aliyev, and situated on London’s ‘Billionaires’ Row’.
The UWO was obtained in May 2019 over suspicions that the three properties were purchased using monies provided by Aliyev’s father, the late Rakhat Aliyev, who was a senior official in the Kazakh government and died in an Austrian prison while awaiting trial for killing two bankers.
A High Court application by Mr Aliyev and his wife to protect the identify of their address, citing ‘security and privacy’ reasons was rejected. Mr Aliyev and his mother, a member of the Kazakhstan senate, were suspected of being the “ultimate beneficial owners of [the three] properties subject to unexplained wealth orders.”
While they have been unable to explain the source of their income, the family has rejected the accusations.
‘Billionaires’ Row’ (or The Bishops Avenue, Hampstead in north London, as it is otherwise known), is home to the rich and famous. Celebrities who have owned homes on the road include Sir Billy Butlin, Gracie Fields, Justin Bieber and Heather Mills and it was once used as the candidates’ home in the TV programme, The Apprentice.
However, in 2014 it was estimated a third of the mansions on the road had stood empty for up to 25 years and several had fallen into disrepair. A row of ten mansions left unused for ten years after being purchased between 1989 and 1993 by members of the Saudi royal family were later sold for £73 million. Other properties were registered to companies in offshore tax havens such as the Channel Islands, British Virgin Islands, Curaçao, the Bahamas and Panama.
Despite their poor condition, the properties have increased in value by several million pounds, as London property prices have risen. At the time, Boris Johnson, then Mayor of London, described them as ‘blocks of bullion in the sky’ and called for them to be lived in or rented out, or for taxes to be increased if they remained vacant.
Always get advice from a Chartered Surveyor when buying property – whether you’re buying a first-rung-of-the-ladder starter home or something a bit more expensive.