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Hidden ownership in high-end real estate

Carole Switzer | September 25, 2018

We often think that money laundering involves the use of offshore accounts in places with opaque banking systems, but the truth is that money laundering is often hidden in plain sight in developed countries with strong banking regulations. This can be accomplished through investment in high-end real estate.

Transparency International reports that investment in luxury property through shell corporations is one of the most common ways money is laundered. A 2016 Transparency International Canada study of high-end properties in Vancouver, B.C., Canada found that 45 percent of the properties are held through corporate structures that hide the owners. The “No Reason to Hide” report found that nearly half of the 100 highest priced properties—together valued at more than $1 billion—did not have transparent ownership structures. Instead, they were owned by holding companies, or were owned by “nominees,” who were unemployed students or homemakers or were held in trust for anonymous...

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