London: Billions in ‘Dirty’ Money Fueling UK Real Estate Boom

According to a new report from Transparency International (TI), the London property market has been flooded with billions of pounds in dirty capital from around the world as criminals use secret offshore companies to bypass money-laundering checks.

The report, written with research support from OCCRP director Paul Radu, shows how more than 36,000 properties in London are owned by companies registered in secrecy jurisdictions such as the British Virgin Islands, Isle of Man, and Channel Islands Jersey and Guernsey. Some were bought with legitimate funds, using offshore companies for privacy reasons; however an unknown number were bought in this way to conceal the source of stolen money.

More than £ 180 million (US$ 276 million) in property in the United Kingdom (UK) has been placed under investigation since 2004 as suspected proceeds of corruption, but TI believes this is only a fraction of the dirty capital invested in UK real estate.

According to TI, 2.25 square miles’ worth of London property – including nearly one in 10 properties in the inner-London borough, the City of Westminster – are held by companies in offshore jurisdictions.

The report highlights the risks posed by the system, which allows criminals to bypass UK money-laundering checks.

“Transparency International’s key recommendation is that transparency should be established over who runs the companies that in turn own so much property in the UK,” says the report.

OCCRP’s Radu was on the research advisory committee for the document.