LONDON’S “super-prime” property is continuing to be used to launder the illicit profits of corrupt foreign tycoons despite promises of a government crackdown, an official report warned today.
The Home Office report, which examines the risks of money-laundering and terrorist financing, says that there is a “particularly high risk” of homes in the capital’s most expensive districts being bought with illegally obtained wealth
It adds that such properties were “a commonly identified feature within current investigations into grand corruption and money laundering being conducted by the National Crime Agency’s international corruption unit”.
The report also says “a significant amount of intelligence about possible proceeds of corruption in London is generated by transactions relating to the acquisition or sale of such superprime property.”
Further concerns are expressed about the role of lawyers in assisting such purchases by helping clients to create trusts and companies which can be used to “facilitate money laundering” by masking the true identity of the buyer.
The new assessment will increase pressure for action to prevent the London property market being exploited by criminals.
It follows warnings by the National Crime Agency and campaigners that hundreds of millions of pounds of criminal wealth is being laundered through this city and a promise in 2016 by then PM David Cameron to act against corruption here and abroad.
Today’s report warns, however, that the problem is continuing with property presenting a “particular appeal to high-end money launderers looking to conceal large sums in few transactions, often with beneficial ownership hidden through the use of corporate vehicles or overseas trusts”. It adds that homes “pose a greater risk than commercial property” but that “the commercial sector also poses risks.”
To help address the problem, a new Criminal Finances Act passed this year will give law enforcers the chance to seek “unexplained wealth orders” requiring those suspected of buying assets with illicit funds to prove in court that their money was clean. But this has still to come into effect.
The Government has also yet to introduce a register that would end the anonymity of those who use overseas companies to buy British property.
Security minister Ben Wallace and Treasury minister Stephen Barclay responded by promising action to protect London’s reputation.
“Serious and organised crime has been estimated to cost the UK tens of billions of pounds every year,” they said. “That is why we must continue to crack down on dirty money.”
Nigeria’s president Muhammadu Buhari last year called for Britain to return assets stolen from his country by corrupt individuals.
A deal was later signed between the two countries to make it easier to hand back illicit profits.
‘Property appeals to highend money launderers looking to conceal large sums in few transactions’ Home Office report
As reported by London Evening Standard