The Prime Minster issued the warning that the UK would not become a safe haven for corrupt money during his speech in Singapore, as part of his four-day tour of South East Asia.
“Now with £122bn of property in England and Wales owned by offshore companies we know that some high-value properties, particularly in London, are being bought by people overseas through anonymous shell companies, some of them with plundered or laundered cash,” said Cameron.
“Just last week, there were allegations of links between a former Kazakh secret police chief and a London property portfolio worth nearly £150m. I’m determined that the UK must not become a safe haven for corrupt money from around the world,” he added.
On Monday, the National Crime Agency told The Times that London property prices were being driven up by overseas criminals purchasing luxury homes. Donald Toon, director of economic crime, said he was ‘alarmed’ at the number of homes registered to complex offshore corporations some of which will have been bought with laundered money.
To remove the ‘shroud of secrecy’ created by company ownership, Cameron said the government has legislated to ensure that from next year, Britain will become the first major country to establish a publicly accessible central registry showing who owns and controls all British companies.
But the PM wants to go further by having the power to track company data from country to country and ultimately to extend the rules which apply to British companies to encompass foreign companies which invest in UK property. He will be consulting on the best way to carry this out.
Cameron said his first step in tackling the problem is to ask the Land Registry to publish its Autumn data on which foreign properties own land and property titles in England and Wales. This is expected to apply to approximately 100,000 titles and will show for the first time how many properties are owned by foreign companies.