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Brett Wilson LLP civil fraud solicitors discuss a case where an innocent wife was unable to defeat claim for civil recovery order

In National Crime Agency v Azam (No 2) [2014] EWHC 3573 the High Court heard a defence to a claim for a civil recovery order over property in which the legal title was vested in Second Respondent - the ex-wife of the First Respondent against whom the Court at an earlier hearing had ruled such property had been obtained through his criminal activity (NCA v Azam (No 1) [2014] EWHC 2722). However, this was not a case of a wife living “high on the hog” of the proceeds of crime but a “complete innocent caught up in the web of her former husband’s wrongdoing” and about whom Mrs Justice Andrews DBE said “if the Court had an unfettered discretion as to what should happen to the property registered in her name, there would be much to be said in favour of allowing her to keep it”. Nevertheless, she ruled that the Court did not have such discretion. Firstly, on the basis that a defence under section 266(3)(a) was not engaged because of her honest assertion that the arranged marriage would have taken place if security had not been promised to her and she took no steps to her detriment (see criteria in s266(4)). However, secondly she ruled that any claim for financial relief did not give rise to a “legitimate expectation” such that A1 P1 was engaged given the uncertainty of her potential claim (divorce in Dubai under Sharia law). She concluded that “the policy underlying Part 5 of POCA would be frustrated if a CRO were not to be made in a case such as this, even though the impact will be to deprive this most unfortunate lady of the very property that she believed to have been given to her to safeguard her financial position in the event of a divorce from the man she had the great misfortune to marry”.

Update:  Mrs Justice Andrews DBE has granted the Second Respondent permission to appeal.

Nick Brett of Brett Wilson LLP acts for the Second Respondent.


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