Prime Minister David Cameron has warned foreign investors that the UK is not a place to stash “corrupt money from around the world”.
Speaking from Singapore, where he’s there on a trade mission, Mr Cameron promised to crack down on “dodgy” offshore companies that buy up luxury properties in the UK as part of his drive to tackle international corruption.
There is no place for dirty money in Britain. David Cameron
Mr Cameron said: “I’m determined that the UK must not become a safe haven for corrupt money from around the world.
“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.”
He insisted “there is no place for dirty money in Britain” while delivering his plans which aim to increase transparency on corrupt offshore companies that are snapping up properties in some of London’s most exclusive areas.
For the first time, this autumn the Land Registry will publish information on property owned by foreign companies. The new register is expected to have the biggest impact in London where 36,000 properties are owned by offshore companies.
Mr Cameron said: “With £122bn 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.”
Under his new plans, the prime minister also indicated that there would be fresh pressure on Britain’s offshore tax havens to increase transparency.
Mr Cameron said officials are examining whether there is a case for insisting that non-UK companies looking for a contract with the UK government should also publicly state who owns it.
“The vast majority of foreign-owned businesses that invest in property in the UK are entirely legitimate and proper, and have nothing at all to hide,” Mr Cameron said.
“They are welcome in Britain. And I want more of them. I want Britain to be the most open country in the world for investment.
“But I want to ensure that all this money is clean money. There is no place for dirty money in Britain.”
£180m worth of British property has been brought under criminal investigation since 2004 and 75 per cent of it is foreign-owned.