201601.05

Career Criminal’s Innocent Wife Left Penniless

The rights of individuals sometimes have to give way to the public interest and that was certainly so in the case of a career criminal’s dutiful and entirely innocent wife who was stripped of her property assets under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

The woman confined herself to her role as home-maker and mother and had no idea how her husband’s wealth was generated. A judge found that it was not a case of a wife being happy to live high on the hog on the profits of crime whilst turning a blind eye. She followed her husband’s every command following their arranged marriage and divorced him after he was jailed overseas for drug dealing and money laundering offences.

The National Crime Agency (NCA) began proceedings against the wife to recover two UK properties which had been put in her name by her husband. She argued that one of the properties had been a wedding gift and that the proposed seizures would breach her human right to freely enjoy her private property. The judge nevertheless granted a civil recovery order on the basis that the money used to buy both properties was tainted by her husband’s criminal conduct.

In rejecting her challenge to that decision, the Court of Appeal found that she had no legitimate expectation that the NCA would stay its hand. Her human rights were not engaged in the decision and, given the strict terms of the legislation, the Court had no power to let her keep the properties.

The Court acknowledged that, as a result of its ruling, any hope the wife had of a secure future had vanished. She had no right to alimony against her husband and the substantial dowry she had brought into the marriage was part of assets which had been frozen overseas.

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