The ‘unexplained wealth order’: a promising tool for a comprehensive EU strategy to combat transnational money laundering and corruption?

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Project number 2022/45/B/HS5/03080 funded by the National Science Centre, Poland, carried out from 7 February 2023 to 6 February 2027.

Project investigator Dr Ariadna Ochnio

General information

The subject of the research is the legal institution of the ‘unexplained wealth order’ (UWO). In some foreign jurisdictions, this institution is used to combat serious crime, i.a. corruption and money laundering involving politically exposed persons (PEPs). UWOs enable the recovery of illicit assets on the basis of a ‘civil’ standard of proof. Under certain conditions ensuring the appropriate protection of rights, this legal institution may provide for legal systems a complementary path of recovery of illicit assets in cases of particularly serious offences, the specifics of which imply that meeting the burden of proof under traditional criminal standards is unfeasible in practice.

Project objectives

The project attempts to answer the question of whether the ‘unexplained wealth order’ is a promising tool worth incorporating into the comprehensive EU strategy for combatting transnational money laundering and corruption of politically exposed persons, especially from outside the EU, storing illegal assets in EU territory. Alternatively, it may be that the use of this method of recovering illegal assets should be discouraged as, offering a way to bypass the criminal route, it might pose too great a threat to fundamental rights, such as the right to property, the presumption of innocence, the right of defence or the right to silence.

Research scope

Analyses in the framework of the project: dogmatic, comparative (UWO models in the selected legal systems – Ireland; England, Wales and Northern Ireland; Western Australia, Northern Territory, Commonwealth); case law of the domestic courts, CJEU, ECtHR; current EU strategy to combat transnational money laundering and corruption involving politically exposed persons; partial data concerning the use of UWOs.

Importance of the study for law making and law enforcement

The transferability of UWOs to a comprehensive EU strategy to combat transnational money laundering and corruption has not yet been the subject of extensive research. The research results may have an impact on future EU policy and Member States’ policies on combating serious crime through the use of methods based on the recovery of illicit assets. In addition, the research results may positively affect the return of illicit assets from EU territory to ‘victim countries’, especially developing countries where corruption is a systemic problem.

Research visits to foreign scientific units:
University of Limerick, Ollscoil Luimnigh, Leabharlann Glucksman.

Gniewomir Wycichowski-Kuchta, The Discretion of the EU Member States in Shaping the Non-Conviction Based Confiscation Regime in the Light of CJEU and ECHR Case Law, RPEiS (2023, nr 4, pp. 27-47, Open Access, Lic. CC-BY,

Ariadna H. Ochnio, Recent developments in EU anti-corruption strategy: the missing element of the return of corrupt assets to “victim countries”, Journal of Money Laundering Control 2024, Vol. 27 No. 7, pp. 1-12, Emerald Publishing, Open access, Lic. CC-BY,
AAM version:

Coming soon.