Offshore companies buying UK property could be forced to reveal their ultimate owners under plans being considered by ministers to crack down on tax evasion and money laundering, according to The Guardian.
The newspaper said the proposals follow the scandal around the leak of the so-called Panama Papers from law firm Mossack Fonseca which reveal how some of the world’s wealthy avoid tax.
The proposals would expose foreign firms that hold billions of pounds in British property without having to declare who is behind them. It could also require foreign companies bidding for public sector contracts to do the same.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron is expected to announce the new measures forcing transparency on foreign owners of UK property soon.
A consultation document, published by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, said: “Property can provide a convenient vehicle for hiding the proceeds of crime. A recent study found that a quarter of solicitors’ firms surveyed had experienced clients attempting to use property transactions to launder money or commit fraud," according to The Guardian.
“UK property is in any case attractive to overseas investors due to the UK’s stable and open political and business climate. This also attracts criminal organisations and corrupt individuals who want a good investment and may also seek the badge of wealth and respectability that UK property ownership can bestow. The high values of property in London in particular presents an opportunity for criminals to launder considerable sums of money in one transaction.”