A report said yesterday that about 52,000 properties in Britain are owned by anonymous investors, including “close to the Kremlin”, despite the existence of legislation aimed at stopping the flow of suspicious Russian money, after Moscow’s attack on Ukraine.
The report by Transparency International UK said that real estate worth more than 6.7 billion pounds ($8.1 billion), including luxury real estate in London, was bought with “dirty money” through “secret offshore companies”.
He added that more than a fifth of the money, or 1.5 billion pounds, was invested in real estate “suspected of being from Russia,” or for parties “subject to sanctions or close to the Kremlin.”
The report comes after Britain launched a crackdown last year targeting Russian money flowing from shell companies and tax havens.
It was part of broader economic sanctions, after Moscow launched its offensive in neighboring Ukraine nearly a year ago.
In August, the British government launched a new “offshore entity” registry, which requires foreign companies to declare the ultimate beneficiary of any property they acquire in the UK.
But activists say the record remains open to abuse.
The Transparency International report indicated that more than 18,000 offshore companies collectively own about 52,000 properties in Britain and Wales. He added that these companies “either completely ignored the law, or provided information that makes it impossible for the public to know who owns it.”
This includes companies said to be owned by corrupt oligarchs or sanctioned individuals. The organization added that Britain remained a “hub” for illegal funds, and urged more government action.
“Transparency about who actually owns property here is vital to addressing Britain’s role as a global center for dirty money,” said Dunkin Himes, director of policy at the organisation. “Our analyzes reveal that there are a very large number of companies that could try to circumvent the laws, not knowing they exist or because they completely ignore them,” he added. “Without action from parliament to close the loopholes in the law and effective enforcement, this promising reform will fail to achieve its goal of providing fewer places to hide corrupt wealth,” he said.
• In August, the British government launched a new “offshore entity” registry that requires foreign companies to declare the ultimate beneficiary of any property they acquire in the UK.