A new analysis suggests property worth over £100bn in England and Wales is secretly owned. More than 87,000 properties are owned by anonymous companies registered in tax havens, research by the the transparency group Global Witness said. The analysis said that 40 per cent of the properties are in London. Cadogan Square in Knightsbridge, where the average property costs £3m, has at least 134 secretly-owned properties. Also, Buckingham Palace Road houses a large number of buildings, with a combined estimate value of £350m.
Ava Lee, senior anti-corruption campaigner at Global Witness said, “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.” The revelation came at a time as Parliament’s joint select committee on the draft registration of overseas entities bill meets to hear evidence on the impact of property ownership by anonymous companies. The government committed to introduce a register of UK property owners at its anti-corruption summit in 2016, but progress has been slow since then.
Historical Land Registry data reveals the combined value of the properties was at least £56bn at the time of their acquisition. Once inflation is factored in this would exceed £100bn. Some 10,000 of the properties are in Westminster, while around 6000 are in Kensington and Chelsea. Camden is home to more than 2300 of the anonymously owned properties while almost 2000 in Tower Hamlets.
Global Witness said its investigations have shown how criminals and corrupt politicians use the UK property market to hide or clean dirty cash and to secure safe havens for themselves and their families.