London, Oct 7 (PTI) A Pakistani-origin businessman from Leeds in northern England has lost his vast property empire worth nearly 10 million pounds after an investigation by UK's law enforcement authorities.
The National Crime Agency (NCA) said on Tuesday that it had secured an Unexplained Wealth Order (UWO) against eight properties owned by 40-year-old Mansoor ‘Manni’ Mahmood Hussain.
It makes Hussain the first individual with alleged involvement in serious organised crime to be slapped with an UWO, used by the UK authorities to clamp down on illicit finance.
“This case is a milestone, demonstrating the power of Unexplained Wealth Orders, with significant implications for how we pursue illicit finance in the UK,” said Graeme Biggar, NCA Director General of the National Economic Crime Centre.
“This groundbreaking investigation has recovered millions of pounds worth of criminally obtained property. It is crucial for the economic health of local communities such as Leeds, and for the country as a whole, that we ensure property and other assets are held legitimately,” he said, adding that the NCA would ensure the UK economy is protected from the “corrosive impact” of illicit funds.
Hussain, known for a high flying lifestyle in the UK and being pictured with many celebrities including Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and actress Meghan Markle before she married Prince Harry, had submitted 127 bulky lever-arch folders and a 76-page statement to explain where his money came from for the properties.
But the NCA said that in the process he inadvertently gave its investigators clues to make a bigger case against him.
A freezing order was obtained stopping the sale or transfer of the original eight properties, plus a further nine that were identified.
The NCA argued that Hussain had failed to fully comply with the requirements of the UWO, and his non-compliance provided a 'good case' that a number of the properties were funded by criminal associates.
'Hussain, who has links to a murderer jailed for 26 years, an armed robber and a convicted fraudster who acted as his accountant, used threats of violence and blackmail to buy his properties,' the NCA claimed.
As part of the recovery process, Hussain agreed to hand over 45 properties in London, Cheshire and Leeds, four parcels of land, as well as other assets and GBP 583,950 in cash, with a combined value of 9,802,828 pounds.
The settlement was agreed on August 24 and the High Court in England sealed the recovery order last week.
“Mansoor Hussain thought he had hidden the criminality associated with the source of his property empire, but he didn’t count on our tenacity,” said Andy Lewis, Head of Civil Recovery at the NCA.
“Far from taking his UWO response at face value, we studied what he had and hadn’t divulged. We could then use that information to look far enough back to uncover the hidden skeletons in his financial closet. Ultimately the wealth of evidence in this case has led to a settlement which not only meets our operational goals, but frees up our investigators and legal team to pursue other cases,” he said.
UWOs were introduced under the Criminal Finances Act 2017 and came into force in January 2018 and the first UWO was secured a month later, against 30 million worth of assets held by an Azerbaijani expatriate and her husband.
Associated orders introduced by the same legislation, such as Account Freezing Orders, have been obtained in a number of civil recovery cases. The NCA said it has secured 85 AFOs with a combined value of more than 180 million pounds. PTI AK RUP RUP RUP