Singapore: Britain will seek more transparency from foreign firms investing in the property market in a bid to stop ill-gotten funds being laundered in the sector, Prime Minister David Cameron said today. “There is no place for dirty money in Britain,” Cameron said in a speech during a visit to Singapore as part of a Southeast Asian swing.
“Indeed, there should be no place for dirty money elsewhere. That’s my message to foreign fraudsters: London is not a place to stash your dodgy cash,” he said in the speech at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.
Campaigners in Britain have raised concerns that rising property prices are fuelled by corrupt cash, although Cameron said that “a vast majority” of foreign companies which invest in the sector are legitimate.
Over 36,000 London properties are owned by offshore companies, while more than 100,000 property titles in Britain are registered to overseas firms.
Cameron said that as a first step toward more transparency, he has asked the Land Registry to publish later this year “data on which foreign companies own which land and property titles in England and Wales”.
Britain is also considering asking foreign firms wanting to bid for British government contracts to publicly state who their owners are, he said. Cameron said he was insisting on transparency of business ownership because “the corrupt, the money-launderers — they need anonymous company structures to move and access their loot”.
“So by lifting off this shroud of secrecy we can expose wrongdoing and dissuade others from going down the same path,” he said.
“With 122 billion pounds (USD 190.26 billion) of property in England and Wales owned via offshore companies, we know that some high-value properties — particularly in London — are being bought by people overseas through anonymous shell companies, some with plundered or laundered cash,” Cameron said.
He cited allegations last week of links between a former Kazakh secret police chief and a London property portfolio worth nearly 150 billion pounds. Cameron also mentioned the case of a convicted Nigerian fraudster who owned properties in Britain.
“I’m determined that the UK must not become a safe haven for corrupt money from around the world,” he said. “We need to stop corrupt officials or organised criminals using anonymous shell companies to invest their ill-gotten gains in London property without being tracked down.”