New analysis reveals that more than 87,000 properties in England and Wales are owned by anonymous companies registered in tax havens. The value of these properties is at least £56 billion according to Land Registry data – and likely to be in excess of £100 billion when accounting for inflation and missing price data.
The figures come from anti-corruption NGO Global Witness, which recently gave evidence to a Parliamentary committee considering proposals to introduce a register of the real owners of UK properties. It also hears evidence on the impact of property ownership by anonymous companies. The Government committed to introduce a register of UK property owners at the Anti-Corruption Summit in 2016.
“It’s increasingly clear that UK property is one of the favourite tools of the criminal and corrupt for stashing and laundering stolen cash. This analysis reveals the alarming scale of the UK’s secret property scandal,” said Ava Lee, Senior Anti-Corruption Campaigner at Global Witness.
“There’s some good news. Parliament is reviewing a draft law that could force these secret owners out of the shadows. We’re calling on the Government to table this legislation as quickly as possible, so we can find out who really owns so much of the UK.”
Some 40% of the anonymously owned properties identified are in London. Cadogan Square in Knightsbridge, where the average property will set you back over £3 million, hosts at least 134 secretly owned properties. Buckingham Palace Road is also home to a large number, with an estimated value of £350 million.
As of March 2019, the areas with the highest number of anonymously owned properties are:
- 10,000 in Westminster.
- 5,729 in Kensington and Chelsea.
- 2,320 in Camden.
- 1,930 in Tower Hamlets.
Global Witness said they have “repeatedly shown how criminals and corrupt politicians can use the UK property market to hide or clean dirty cash, and to secure safe haven for themselves and their families. And they’ve shown how London can be used by anyone wanting to hide their identity behind complex networks of companies and properties.”