Draft law to reveal true owners of UK property

By agency reporter
July 24, 2018

A draft bill, published by the Government on 23 July 2018 will require all overseas companies buying UK property to reveal the identities of their real owners. It is a welcome step in the fight against corrupt money being laundered through the UK, says Transparency International, and the Government must now push forward and deliver a register that truly works.

Transparency International has long identified UK property as a vehicle for corrupt individuals from overseas to launder stolen wealth. It found at least £4.4 billion worth of property across the UK thought to have been bought with suspicious wealth, very often through shell companies that allow the purchaser to remain anonymous and avoid questions over the source of their wealth.

The register proposed by this bill, for which Transparency International has been campaigning for several years, has been long-promised by the Government. It will reveal the ultimate owners of overseas companies which own UK property, removing the anonymity corrupt individuals rely on. The UK has already established a similar register for all UK companies.

This bill also proposes a deterrent of five years in prison for those connected to entities which fail to reveal their owners, before selling a property. Transparency International welcomes measures to deter non-compliance, however the Government must ensure these sanctions are enforceable and achieve their intended aims. Extra steps will need to be taken to maintain the register's integrity or it risks being simply ignored by those looking to launder money anonymously. This includes providing Companies House – which will host this register – with sufficient resources and the mandate to identify suspicious activity and root out inaccurate submissions.

Duncan Hames, Director of Policy at Transparency International UK, said: “These proposals finally put to paper a long-promised tool that will help lift the veil of secrecy of property ownership that corrupt individuals exploit here. After several years of campaigning and advocacy we are pleased that the first steps to introducing this important register have been made.”

“For too long the UK has welcomed corrupt money and very often it has been our property market that has provided a hiding place. This bill should eventually leave corrupt individuals one less place to stash their dirty money. Once this consultation concludes we expect the Government to make this legislation an urgent priority.”

“We now call on MPs from all parties to continue to support this register and ensure its passage through Parliament at the earliest possible opportunity. Every day that passes without it, is another day for stolen wealth to anonymously enter our property market. It’s also essential that once implemented this register should be maintained with the highest levels of integrity, to ensure it is accurate, effective and ultimately a sharp tool in ending the UK’s role as a safe haven for corrupt money.”

Transparency International will be making a submission to the Government’s consultation on this bill.

*Read the Draft Registration of Overseas Entities Bill here

* Transparency International UK http://www.transparency.org.uk/

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