Ownership registry in the U.K. has sparked some lively debate in recent years.
Transparency International (TI) announced earlier this week that a new law is in place for U.K. companies to self-report its true owners. According to the international organization, this unprecedented move will help crack down on anti-money laundering and tax evasion practices.
The new law requires that U.K. companies disclose more information related to their true owners such as their full name and nationality—to Companies House, which until now, never called for this information.
Recent research published by TI indicates that more than 36,000 of London properties reaching up to 5.8 kilometers are held by “hidden companies” that are registered offshore. In 2011, £3.8 billion worth of U.K. properties were bought by companies registered in the British Virgin Islands.
Data obtained from the Land Registry and Metropolitan Police Proceeds of Corruption Unit, reveals that the owners of 75 percent of U.K. properties are now under investigation for corruption after it was uncovered that they concealed their identities through offshore accounts.
The process is not a complicated one. As it stands, there are no laws requiring overseas companies to register their true owners when purchasing property in the United Kingdom. In effect, stashing stolen money in British homes has never been easier. It does not end there. While real estate agents are required to conduct due diligence on the seller of a property, there are no laws around background checks for buyers.
"There is growing evidence that the U.K. property market has become a safe haven for corrupt capital stolen from around the world, facilitated by the laws which allow U.K. property to be owned by secret offshore companies," said Dr Robert Barrington, executive director of Transparency International U.K., in a statement.