Anti-money laundering bill would force overseas property owners to come clean

PW140918_money laundering_shutterstock_180392672_cred Eskemar

Source: Eskemar/Shutterstock

Proposals to introduce register for owners have widespread support, but some argue that they also contain flaws.

A report by Transparency International (TI) from March last year shone a light on the opaque nature of the UK property market. In 14 landmark London developments, it found that 40% of flats were bought by investors from jurisdictions with a high risk of corruption and those hiding behind anonymous companies.

As such, both legal experts and property developers agree that the impact of the proposed Registration of Overseas Entities Bill, which is out for consultation until 5pm on 17 September, could be huge. Intended as a measure to stop corrupt investors using the UK property market to hide dirty money anonymously, it would require all overseas investors to identify themselves on a publicly-accessible register.

Because the law currently allows non-UK property investors to remain anonymous, it is impossible to know whether the 40% of that from the 14 developments looked at by TI are being bought by legitimate or illegitimate investors. The proposed bill will attempt to change that by forcing all overseas investors to identify themselves.

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