13 Feb 2018
A quarter of property in England and Wales owned by overseas firms is held by entities registered in the British Virgin Islands, BBC analysis has found.
The Caribbean archipelago is the official home of companies that own 23,000 properties – more than any other country.
They are owned by 11,700 firms registered in the overseas territory.
The finding emerged from BBC analysis conducted of Land Registry data on overseas property ownership.
The research found there are around 97,000 properties in England and Wales held by overseas firms, as of January 2018.
It adds to concerns that companies registered in British-controlled tax havens have been used to avoid tax.
Close behind the British Virgin Islands (BVI), which has a population of just 30,600, are Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man.
Of the properties owned by overseas companies in England and Wales, two thirds are registered to firms in the British Virgin Islands, Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man.
Many foreign UK property owners are also officially headquartered in Hong Kong, Panama and Ireland.
The analysis provides a new picture of ownership of property by overseas companies in England and Wales following a decision last November to make the database public and free to access.
Close to half (44%) of all properties owned by overseas companies in England and Wales are located in London
More than one in ten (11,500) properties owned by overseas companies in England and Wales are located in the City of Westminster
More than 6,000 properties owned by foreign companies are in the London borough of Kensington and Chelsea.
Among those entries in the database that disclosed a price, the most expensive was the former headquarters of the Metropolitan Police, New Scotland Yard, at 8-10 Broadway.
The site was purchased by the Abu Dhabi Financial Group in 2014 for £370m from the Mayor of London’s office. But it is officially owned by a Jersey-based company called BL Development.
The 1967 multi-storey block has now been demolished to make way for “a luxury collection of one to five bedroom apartments across six architecturally striking towers”.
These range in price from £1.5m to more than £10m.
The leasehold of Admiralty Arch, the former government building off Trafalgar Square that straddles one end of The Mall, was sold to hotel developer Prime Investments for £141m.
It is registered to a Guernsey-based entity, Admiralty Arch Hotels Ltd.
– By Andy Verity, Economics correspondent, BBC
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