UK plans register of foreign property owners

The UK government has announced its plans for a new register to monitor property owned by companies based overseas.

The move, which is part of the country’s focus on cracking down on money laundering, follows an anti-corruption summit hosted by the government last year.

“The UK property market attracts a great deal of inward investment to the UK. This investment benefits the UK economy and supports the construction industry and a host of connected trades across the country. It is something that the UK government is committed to protecting. Therefore it is important to ensure the integrity and reputation of the UK property market,” says Margot James, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State and Minister for Small Business, Consumers and Corporate Responsibility.

“The UK property market should be seen as fair, transparent and clean in order to attract the right investors and owners. Honest business should not fear that they are supporting criminal enterprise when investing in UK property. A higher level of transparency will boost investor confidence.”

The government has issued a call for evidence that sets out proposals for the new beneficial ownership register of overseas companies, seeking views on the design of the policy and evidence on the possible effects of the policy.

This call for evidence will be of interest to overseas legal entities which own UK property or are considering buying UK property, overseas legal entities which are considering participating in UK central government procurement and professional advisers and service providers for overseas legal entities.

“This government is committed to building an economy that works fairly for everyone. An important element of this is our continued commitment to improve transparency of company ownership,” adds James.

 

UK to name foreign property owners as part of corruption crackdown

12th May 2016

Foreign firms that own property in the UK will be named publicly, as part of the government’s crackdown on corruption.

Speaking at an anti-corruption summit hosted by David Cameron today, the Prime Minister announced that any foreign company that wants to buy UK property or bid for central government contracts here will have to join a new public register of beneficial ownership information before they can do so. This will be the first register of its kind anywhere in the world.

Foreign companies own around 100,000 properties in England and Wales. Over 44,000 of these are in London. Concerns have grown in recent years, though, that off-shore companies may be being used to move, launder or hide illicit funds through London’s property market. In a move to combat this, the new register will include companies who already own property in the UK, not just those wishing to buy.

“The evil of corruption reaches into every corner of the world. It lies at the heart of the most urgent problems we face – from economic uncertainty, to endemic poverty, to the ever-present threat of radicalisation and extremism,” said Cameron.

“A global problem needs a truly global solution. It needs an unprecedented, courageous commitment from world leaders to stand united, to speak into the silence, and to demand change.”

France, the Netherlands, Nigeria and Afghanistan will follow the UK’s lead and commit to launch their own public registers of true company ownership, while Australia, New Zealand, Jordan, Indonesia, Ireland and Georgia will agree to take the initial steps towards making similar arrangements.

40 jurisdictions, including a number of Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies with major financial centres have signed up to a ground-breaking international deal to automatically share their beneficial ownership registers with other countries. For the first time, police and law enforcement will be able to see exactly who really owns and controls every company incorporated in these jurisdictions.

The summit takes place after multiple scandals in the past year surrounding potentially illicit financial practices, from the Panama Papers leak to a Channel 4 documentary about overseas investors in London real estate.

You can watch the summit live here:

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