British expat landlords to be outed in public identity registers

Published:  11 Apr at 6 PM
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As part of a proposed attack on money laundering by means of UK property purchase, UK expat buy-to-let landlords working through offshore companies are to be included in a public register showing full names and details.

British business minister Margot James is proposing the scheme as a means to identify money launderers using property purchase companies to hide the fruits of their crimes. Should the proposal be adopted, the resulting register will be the world’s first to list beneficial owners of overseas companies. The rule would also affect genuine expats who purchase buy-to-let properties against their return to the UK or as an investment for retirement.

Claiming the register would make it easier for police to track down the proceeds of criminal acts, James hit out at foreign property investors, saying some are undoubtedly involved in organised crime and money laundering and adding that having their company details will help investigators. According to reports, since 2004 some £180 million has been found to have possibly originated as the proceeds of crime and corruption, with around 75 per cent of property owners hiding their true identities behind overseas company registrations.

James is now requesting the opinions of property experts and affected overseas investors, with replies to be received by 14 May and debated at a consultation. Governmental concerns over the scheme centre on the possibility of heavy-handed new legislation driving away genuine expat and foreign investors from the lucrative UK property market.

Donald Toon, the National Crime Agency’s Director for Economic Crime, stated criminals and money-launderers will use any means possible to hide the names of those holding assets including property gained through illegal actions. Greater transparency as regards true ownership, he believes, is the only answer to the continued purchase of UK property by overseas criminals as a foolproof way to launder money.

Source: Money International
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