Realty is a huge black hole, where black money gets laundered. Ditto in UK too. David Cameron had promised way back in 2015 that he will change Britain’s reputation of being a hub for money laundering were secretive shell companies own thousands of UK properties. But nothing really has happened apart from the rhetoric.
According to a report jointly published by three NGOs – Global Witness, Transparency International and Who Owns Britain, more than 85,000 properties in the UK still have their ultimate owners hidden, many through shell companies in the British Virgin Islands and other UK Crown Dependencies or Overseas Territories. The report states that the most expensive secretly owned property is 123 Buckingham Palace Road, valued at £215,399,999 ($289,000,000) and owned by a Jersey shell company. The ten most expensive anonymously owned properties are worth £1.5 billion. A 2017 Transparency International report stated that £4.2 billion worth of properties in London had been bought by officials or politicians with suspicious wealth.
This is a dangerous practice as not knowing who owns the property means one does not know who exactly is benefitting – in these days of terrorism this is a very scary thing as the very same rental money could be used against the country. Also, this buying increases inequality by unrealistically pushing up realty prices for those who really need and house and simply cannot afford one in London at all!
All this sounds familiar? We could be talking about India, isn’t it? Wonder when transparency will come into realty sector – that’s where the entire money laundering exists. But will that happen?