A powerful new documentary from Channel 4 shines a light on how suspect money can get into London’s elite property market. In an undercover investigation, journalists posing as a corrupt Russian politician and his girlfriend viewed five mansions in central London with price tags ranging from £3 million to £15 million.
Despite being made aware that the money being used was obtained illegally, the Channel 4 programme shows agents from reputable firms discussing moving forward with the potential sales.
I spell out why that is a such a big problem in the documentary, if you're in the UK you can watch it here.
Global Witness is carrying out extensive research into how London acts as a safe haven for the world’s criminal and corrupt.
In March 2015 we published an exposé revealing how the son of former Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev lives in a £3.5 million mansion in the Borough of Reigate and Banstead in Surrey, despite being convicted in his homeland of the attempted murder of a UK citizen and corruption. This shows a real-life example of suspect funds being sunk into London property – we’ll be publishing more like this in future.
The ability to hide and spend suspect cash overseas is a large part of what makes serious corruption and organised crime attractive. After all, it is difficult to stuff millions under a mattress. You need to be able to squirrel the money away in the international financial system, and then find somewhere nice to spend it.
Increasingly, London’s high-end property market seems to be one of the go-to destinations to give questionable funds a veneer of respectability. It offers lawyers who sell secrecy for a living, banks who ask few questions, top private schools for your children and a glamorous lifestyle on your doorstep. As Channel 4 has now shown, estate agents appear to be part of the problem too. Throw in easy access to anonymously-owned offshore companies to hide your identity and the source of your funds and it is easy to see why London’s financial system is so attractive to those with something to hide.
We have plenty more to say on this issue - watch this space….