Press release | Oct. 14, 2019

Another Queen’s Speech, another failure to tackle elite criminals

14th October 2019, London - Today the Queen’s Speech – touted as the law and order Queen’s Speech - failed to deliver on promises to tackle elite criminals. 

“It’s three and a half years since a Conservative Government first promised to put an end to the UK’s dirty money problem but we’re still none the wiser about the real owners of £100 billion worth of property in England and Wales,” said Ava Lee, Senior Anti-Corruption Campaigner at Global Witness.

“It is frankly shameful that a Queen’s Speech that was supposed to tackle law and order was completely void of any action on the super-wealthy criminals that treat the UK like a playground. The legislation is ready to go and has cross-party support – so the question is, who is Johnson trying to please?”

Global Witness analysis has revealed that over 87,000 properties in England and Wales are owned by anonymous companies registered in tax havens. The value of these properties is at least £56 billion according to Land Registry data - and likely to be in excess of £100 billion when accounting for inflation and missing price data.

As of 2019, the areas with the highest number of anonymously owned properties are:

  • 10,000 in Westminster;
  • 5,729 in Kensington and Chelsea;
  • 2,320 in Camden; and
  • 1,930 in Tower Hamlets.

In 2015 the anti-corruption NGO revealed how the mystery owner of a £147 million London property empire owned via a network of offshore companies could be linked to a former Kazakh secret police chief accused of murder, torture and money-laundering.



Notes to editor:

  • This analysis uses Land Registry data accurate as of 1 January 2019. The dataset used is the Overseas Ownership dataset, and is available free of charge from the Land Registry. It contains information on leaseholds and freeholds in England and Wales owned by non-UK registered companies. All properties described as “anonymously owned” are owned by at least one company registered in a “secrecy jurisdiction”. A country is considered to be a secrecy jurisdiction if it has a secrecy score of 60 or above in the Tax Justice Network Financial Secrecy Index. Price paid data is available for only 30% of the titles. In order to estimate the value of the titles for which there was no pricing information, we adjusted for inflation and used the median for region and tenure. 

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