Tax haven homes in North Somerset a way of laundering criminal cash campaigners say

PUBLISHED: 12:00 13 April 2019

A row of typical British terraced houses.	Picture: Getty Images

A row of typical British terraced houses. Picture: Getty Images

© I-Wei Huang, All Rights Reserved

More than 100 properties in North Somerset are owned by companies registered in offshore tax havens, which campaigners warn could be a means of laundering cash from criminal enterprises.

Land Registry data has revealed more than 87,000 properties worth an estimated £100billion are owned by anonymous overseas companies in the UK.

Campaign group Global Witness, which carried out the research, says the figures demonstrate the ‘alarming scale of the UK’s secret property scandal’.

In North Somerset, there are 145 properties owned by companies registered outside of the UK.

Of these, 115 are owned by companies based in tax havens – countries whose laws allow them to keep their financial activities private or pay a low amount of tax.

Companies registered in Jersey own the largest share in North Somerset, with 60 properties.

This is followed by Guernsey, on 33 properties, and New Zealand, with 13.

The tax haven-owned properties were purchased for a combined total of £45million.

Senior anti-corruption campaigner at Global Witness, Ava Lee, said: “It’s increasingly clear that UK property is one of the favourite tools of the criminal and corrupt for stashing and laundering stolen cash.

“There’s some good news. Parliament is reviewing a draft law that could force these secret owners out of the shadows.

“We’re calling on the Government to table this legislation as quickly as possible, so we can find out who really owns so much of the UK.”

The new legislation would mean companies buying property in the UK would have to reveal the identity of their owners.

Across the South West, 5,360 properties are owned by overseas companies, 89 per cent in tax havens, worth an estimated £3 billion.

A HMRC spokesman said: “There is absolutely no place for illicit finance in the UK.

“We take our response to money laundering very seriously through our supervision of high-risk sectors.

“Increasingly we are seeking to use our supervisory, enforcement and tax powers in concert, enabling us to increase our focus on the enablers of tax crime and money laundering.”

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