The UK Government should establish transparency over who owns the companies that own so much property in the UK. Before completing a purchase on a property, overseas companies should be required to submit to Land Registry the same details that UK registered companies must submit to Companies House.
To: ERIC PICKLES MP (ANTI-CORRUPTION CHAMPION)
Why is this important?
Prime Minister David Cameron has said that the government will commit to:
- Publishing Land Registry data this Autumn on which foreign companies own which land and property title in England and Wales
- Consulting on ways to make property ownership by foreign companies much more transparent.
- Examining whether there is a case for insisting that any non-UK company wishing to bid on a contract with the UK government should also publicly state who really owns it.
We welcome the commitment, and we will continue to show our support for a Land Registry requirement that holds foreign companies intending to hold property in the UK to the same standards of transparency as UK-registered companies.
Billions stolen from developing countries every year slash government resources to provide citizens with essential services and infrastructure. Countries like the UK enable this injustice by offering the corrupt and their money a safe place to hide. One such place is our property market.
It is estimated that money stolen from developing countries totalled a staggering $946.7 billion in 2011 alone (Global Financial Integrity, 2013). Lack of transparency makes it difficult to assess exactly how much of this money ends up in the UK - but our new research has found that:
• +£180 million worth of UK property have been brought under criminal investigation as the suspected proceeds of corruption since 2004. The Met Police admit this is very likely to be the ‘tip of the iceberg’.
• Offshore havens are the preferred vehicle for corrupt individuals laundering their money in the UK. 75% of properties in UK which have been brought under investigation for corruption use secret offshore companies.
• 36,342 London properties totalling 2.25 square miles are held by offshore haven companies. That’s nearly 90% of all foreign company-registered properties in London.
We also think it's likely corrupt money in the UK contributes to a number of worrying trends at home, including raising average house prices, prioritising of luxury housing by developers and growth of 'ghost communities' of unoccupied houses.
Foreign investment in the UK is not a bad thing, but anti-money laundering checks are being bypassed and there is growing evidence to suggest the UK property market is making a house a home for corrupt funds stolen from around the world.
Saadi Gadaffi bought his Hampstead mansion with £10m of Libyan state money via a British Virgin Islands company called Capitana Seas Ltd. How many other cases like this exist? Revolutions shouldn't have to happen before we find out.
The UK's facilitation of global corruption must end. Public money intended for schools and hospitals overseas does not belong in a Mayfair mansion - and as the UK faces a housing crisis, the public deserve to know who really owns Britain. Together, we can unmask the corrupt.
But we can't do it alone. Action will be needed from UK Government and business, the British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies, and you. Only with your support can we show those in power that this issue matters to the British public. Join our call today.