In order to crack down on money laundering and corruption in the UK real estate market, the British government announced its plans for new laws to be drafted this summer that, if violated, could lead to anonymous investors jailed and subject to unlimited fines. The UK has billions of pounds of high-end property that is owned by overseas shell companies whose true identity can be next to impossible to identify. In response to this issue, owners of any overseas companies that wish to invest in UK property must be named on a public register.
According to Business minister, Andrew Griffiths; “This is the first register of its kind in the world… Our public register will ensure we know who owns UK property wherever they are from and will help authorities come down hard on front men seeking to conceal their paymasters’ true identities.” The ownership of property by foreign personnel has had heightened scrutiny after the attempted murder of former Russian spy, Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia. Russian persons that have connections to President Vladimir Putin are believed to own up to 1.1 billion pounds of British properties.
Through analysis by the Financial Times, at least 122 billion pounds of property in England and Wales is owned by companies based in secretive tax havens which makes identifying their beneficial owners difficult to near impossible.
Although the British Government is making an effort in anti-money laundering within its borders, there are concerns about the fact that these new rules will not actually be implemented until 2021 which, according to Naomi Hirst, anti-corruption campaigner at Global Witness, “… gives the criminal and corrupt another three years to invest their stolen cash into London’s property market.” Duncan Hames, director of policy at Transparency International UK, was open to the Government’s plans but described their lack of urgency to impose these laws as “disappointing.”
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