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Research Shows 36,000 London Homes Owned Offshore

Transparency International has published new research revealing that secret offshore companies own over 36,000 London Properties.

The properties total 2.25 sq miles and are held by invisible companies registered in secret offshore locations.

The research, which analysed information held by the Metropolitan Police Proceeds of Corruption Unit and the Land Registry, found that three-quarters of properties whose owners are being investigated for corruption hid their identities using offshore corporate secrecy.

In addition to a report, entitled Corruption on your Doorstep, Transparency International embarked on an online campaign to expose the proceeds of corruption that enters the country’s property market on an ongoing basis. A website, ukunmaskthecorrupt.org, covers the organisation’s efforts in this battle and provides an interactive map of London outlining how many offshore-owned homes are located in each borough.

Transparency International UK’s Executive Director, Dr Robert Barrington, said growing evidence suggests that the property market is being used as a haven for corrupt funds. This practice is sustained by laws that permit secret offshore companies to own UK property.

Dr Barrington said that this has a debilitating effect on the countries that the money has been stolen from, and it is difficult to understand how communities in the UK can benefit from welcoming the “corrupt elite” from all over the world.

He warned that the Government needs to respond quickly to ensure that the UK does not become the safe haven of choice for criminals with a global scope. He added that some comparatively simple measures would help, namely a Land Registry requirement that there be transparency over who owns the companies that have acquired so much UK property.

Key statistics

  • Since 2004, over £180m worth of property has been investigated as suspected corruption gains. This is believed to represent a small percentage of the corrupt money invested in UK property
  • £1.5m is the average price of a property being investigated. 48% of all properties were valued at over £1m
  • Companies registered in an offshore secret location own nearly one in ten properties in Westminster, 7.3 percent of properties in Kensington and Chelsea, and 4.5 percent in London
  • In 2011, over £3.8bn worth of property in the UK was purchased by companies registered in the British Virgin Islands

Specialists in Construction Insurance

The latest figures, which encompass October 2013 to September 2014, reveal that only 0.05% of all Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) were contributed by estate agents. It’s a figure that is not consistent with the risks that money launderers pose to the country’s property market.

Transparency International UK has made ten reform recommendations, and is calling for support from estate agents, lawyers, and Government officials to make the UK property market less of a safe haven for stolen capital. The British Overseas Territories also needs to take action to end the crisis.

The primary recommendation is the establishment of transparency over who owns the companies that have purchased so much UK property by making these details a Land Registry requirement.

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