Government wants to stop the use of offshore companies to hide owners identity
David Cameron and the UK government are rolling out plans to clamp down on UK property held in offshore trusts to reveal their ultimate owner.
The 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.
“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.”
It comes as Theresa May, the home secretary, prepares to unveil an aggressive new set of powers to tackle money laundering and terrorist financing, including a new “unexplained wealth order”.
The home secretary said the new powers were needed because Britain’s world-leading financial system was at risk of being undermined by money laundering, illicit funding and the funding of terrorism.
“This action plan sends a clear message that we will not tolerate this type of activity in our financial institutions,” said May.
“We will forge a new partnership with industry to improve suspicious activity reporting, deliver deeper information sharing and take joint action on enforcement. And we will act vigorously against the criminals and terrorists responsible, to protect the security and prosperity of our citizens, and safeguard the integrity of Britain’s financial economy.”
There were more than 354,000 suspicious activity reports submitted in 2013-14 to the National Crime Agency, the vast majority of which came from the financial sector.