A wealthy businessman has agreed to hand over £10m of assets, including dozens of properties across England, after investigators accused him of being a money launderer for major crime lords in the north of England.
Mansoor Hussain, 40, a property developer from Leeds, was hit with an “unexplained wealth order” by the National Crime Agency (NCA), which compelled him to provide evidence of the source of his wealth.
Hussain, known as Manni, agreed to hand over £10m worth of properties, land, and cash in an out of court settlement after the NCA confronted him with the evidence they had accrued.
A finding against him in a high court trial could have resulted in a more severe penalty.
This is the first time an unexplained wealth order has successfully led to the recovery of assets from an individual. They have been used in four cases, including Hussain’s. Two are ongoing and one was rejected by the courts.
Hussain represented himself in talks with the NCA. The settlement was agreed on 24 August, and the high court sealed the recovery order on 2 October 2020.
The UWO process is administered under civil law, which has a lower threshold for burden of proof than criminal law. The NCA said they were unable to mount a case against Hussain in the criminal courts. He has no criminal convictions.
The investigators alleged Hussain had links to a gang in the Bradford area operated by the Khan family, headed by Mohammed Nisar Khan, known locally as “Meggy”, who was jailed for 26 years in 2019 for murder, and an organized crime gang operated across the north of England run by notorious gangster and convicted armed robber Dennis Slade.
Graeme Biggar, director general of the National Economic Crime Centre, NCA, said: “This case is a milestone, demonstrating the power of unexplained wealth orders, with significant implications for how we pursue illicit finance in the UK.
“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, that we ensure property and other assets are held legitimately.”
Andy Lewis, NCA head of civil recovery, said:
“He had a vast number of properties, he led a good lifestyle. But that’s now ended, now we’ve taken away vast majority,” Lewis said.
The NCA was investigating organized crime in the Leeds and Bradford area and they came to suspect Hussain of money laundering for the gangs.
On the face of it, he was businessman with no criminal convictions but strong associations with notorious criminals the area, Lewis said.
He had allowed Slade, a convicted armed robber, to stay rent free in his seven-bedroom house in Leeds, and later rent free in a penthouse apartment in Leeds.
After Hussain was hit with the order, he complied, supplying a 76-page witness statement and about 127 arch lever files of documentary evidence.
However, Lewis said the evidence provided by Hussain bolstered the NCA case and investigators identified a larger property portfolio than was previously known.
“Our case was it had all been financed by organized crime,” Lewis said.
Hussain had many companies and bank accounts. The NCA used another power – an account freezing order – against him.
Lewis said the NCA was unable to launch a criminal prosecution because the “seed funding” for Hussain’s assets dated back 20 years, which would have been too difficult to trace.
He added it was best value for the taxpayer to pursue an out of court settlement, rather than proceed to a full high court trial.
He has handed over forty-five properties in London, Cheshire, and Leeds, four parcels of land, £600k in cash and other assets with a combined value of £9.8m.
Lewis said he had lost many of his assets, although he was left with four properties, which are “highly mortgaged”.
Biggar said criminal prosecution was always the preference but it is not always possible.