Press release | Dec. 19, 2019

Government announces new law to bring transparency to the property market

Today the Queen announced that this Government will introduce a register of the real owners of UK properties. This follows numerous investigations by Global Witness and Transparency International UK that have exposed how the criminal and corrupt use anonymous companies to conceal their identity while they launder and stash dirty money in UK property.

“For too long, the UK has played a pivotal role in global corruption by rolling out the red carpet for the criminal and corrupt. As a result the UK is awash with dirty cash: there are 10,000 anonymously owned properties in Westminster alone,” said Ava Lee, Senior Campaigner at Global Witness. “This register will change that, by bringing these shady owners into the light.”

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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