Ultimate Owners of UK Property May be Forced into Spotlight

Source: Guardian News & Media Ltd

Offshore companies buying UK property could be forced to reveal their ultimate owners under plans being considered by ministers to crack down on tax evasion and money laundering.

The proposals would shine a spotlight on the foreign firms that hold billions of pounds in British property without having to declare who is behind them. It could also require foreign companies bidding for public sector contracts to do the same.

The measures to be detailed by the home secretary as part of a six-week consultation include:

  • The creation of unexplained wealth orders that will require those suspected of money laundering to declare their wealth.
  • The provision of a linked forfeiture power to be used where the answers provided are unsatisfactory, or where the subject of an unexplained wealth order fails to respond.
  • The creation of an illicit enrichment offence for use when public officials have a significant and inexplicable increase in their assets.
  • New administrative power to designate an entity as being of money-laundering concern and require banks, law and accountancy firms to take special measures when dealing with them.
  • Fundamental reform of the system of suspicious activity reports to improve the way the banking and financial sectors report suspect transactions to the National Crime Agency.
  • A new power to allow money held in bank accounts to be swiftly seized and forfeited.