UK property owned by foreign firms to come under scrutiny - Palmers Solicitors

UK property owned by foreign firms to come under scrutiny

UK property owned by foreign firms to come under scrutiny

The government is to force international firms that own UK property to declare their assets publicly, in a bid to stamp out money-laundering.

The move means that companies will need to register if they hold property or want to compete for government contracts.

Prime Minister David Cameron, announced the new measures as part of a wider effort to crack down on global corruption, during a London summit of world leaders who had gathered to discuss the problem of international corruption.

Downing Street said Mr Cameron’s plans for a register of foreign companies owning UK property would include those who already owned property in the UK, as well as those seeking to buy.

It said the register would mean "corrupt individuals and countries will no longer be able to move, launder and hide illicit funds through London’s property market, and will not benefit from our public funds".

Mr Cameron also announced that some of Britain’s overseas territories and crown dependencies will join 33 other countries in agreeing to share automatically their own registers of company ownership, information that will be accessible to the police.

Matthew Hancock, Cabinet Office Minister, explained: "It does not matter where in the world your company is registered if you own property in London or sell things to government, as part of government procurement, then you have to declare the beneficial ownership, in other words the ultimate ownership of the company."

BJ Chong, a Partner and Corporate expert with Palmers, said: “This latest move follows last month’s Panama Papers scandal and shows that the government is taking the issue of corruption and, in particular, money laundering very seriously indeed.

“Although the fine details of the new register are still to be set out, for any legitimate overseas business wishing to own property in the UK, these new measures will have little effect as they have nothing to hide. The UK has also stated its intention to include its overseas territories in the new measures, but for the initiative to have an impact other international leaders will need to introduce similar registers to ensure a level playing field and to stop money launderers simply moving their assets to a country with less restrictions.”

For information on Palmers’ full range of corporate finance and commercial services, please contact us.