UK: ‘Houses bought with laundered money sitting empty’, says NAEA chief
19 Jan 2018

The head of an estate agents industry group has welcomed the government’s plans to tackle money laundering by foreign property buyers, saying the issue causes accommodation problems for locals.

This week the government set out a timetable for the publication of a register requiring overseas companies that own or buy property in the UK to provide details of their ultimate beneficial owners.

The register is expected to go live by early 2021.

Mark Hayward, chief executive of the National Association of Estate Agents, said: “It’s excellent that this register will be up and running by 2021, ensuring dirty money can no longer be used to buy property under the guise of a shell company.”

“Houses bought with laundered money often sit empty, taking homes away from the market that could be used for families and as such impacting the wider community.

It’s important to know who the ultimate owner of a property is if we wish to maintain integrity in our property market”

The new measure is aimed at ending corporate secrecy and preventing money laundering in the property sector.
Over £180 million worth of property in the UK has been brought under criminal investigation as the suspected proceeds of corruption since 2004, according to the Department of Business and Energy, which will establish the register.

It added that over 75% of properties currently under investigation use off-shore corporate secrecy, “a tactic regularly seen by investigators pursuing high-level money laundering.”

The register will also provide the government with greater transparency on overseas companies seeking public contracts, it explained.

Business Secretary Greg Clark said when announcing the plans for the register last week: “We are committed to protecting the integrity and reputation of our property market to ensure the UK is seen as an attractive business environment – a key part of our Industrial Strategy.”

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