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UK property register to target oligarchs and criminals

Public register of property designed to act against dirty money laundered via going live in the UK

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A public property register designed to tackle the dirty money laundered through the UK goes live today.

The Register of Overseas Entities will force landowners in the UK to reveal their identities in an effort to stamp out oligarchs and criminals who buy property.

Kleptocrats and criminal gangs have used London to funnel cash, turning dirty money into legitimate real estate investments.

Cashing in: Ever-rising house prices and relative stability have made the UK attractive to buyers

Cashing in: Ever-rising house prices and relative stability have made the UK attractive to buyers

Ever-rising house prices and relative stability have made the UK attractive to buyers.

Many preferred to hide their property behind complex webs of shell companies registered in secret offshore tax havens.

But when Britain attempted to freeze oligarchs’ assets earlier this year, officials struggled to track them down.

Secretary of State Lord Callanan said: ‘Corrupt elites and oligarchs are using British property as a means of laundering illegal money.

“There are still too many foreign companies funneling their illicit wealth through British properties while hiding behind shell companies in overseas jurisdictions.”

As of today, any foreign entity buying property in the UK must disclose its final beneficiary.

A so-called ‘regulated professional’ – who can be a banker, lawyer or tax adviser, among others – is charged with checking the information he provides.

If the buyer lies, and the regulated professional knowingly allows it, both risk hefty fines or even jail time of up to five years.

The rules also apply to foreign landowners who bought property in England and Wales after 1999 and Scotland in 2014 – the date each land registry began collecting data on foreign owners respectively.

Callanan said, “If you don’t follow the rules, you can expect criminal penalties.”

Rachel Davies, of Transparency International UK, said: ‘Implementation is key to its effectiveness, but it will give criminals and kleptocrats one less place to hide.’

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