Foreign companies owning property will be required to reveal their ultimate owners on the world’s first register of overseas entities’ beneficial ownership.
It means any foreign entity selling or leasing property will have to first publicly declaring its beneficial owner.
Individuals who fail to register overseas entities or provide false information face two years in jail and an unlimited fine.
Information from the register will make it easier for law enforcement agencies to seize criminal funds, according to the department for business, energy and industrial strategy.
Under the new draft laws, companies will also be required to provide annual updates to Companies House to ensure the information on the register is up-to-date.
Business Minister Richard Harrington said: “The UK is known around the world for its open and dependable business environment and this reputation is maintained by keeping under review our required high standards.
“That is why we are introducing the world’s first public register which will expose the ultimate owners of overseas shell companies, giving authorities the information, they need to come down on criminals who launder their dirty money through the UK’s property market and to seize the proceeds of crime.
“While the vast majority of foreign companies which buy property in the UK do so legitimately, this world-leading register will help ensure the UK remains a great dependable place to work, invest and do business.”
The register is part of a wider crackdown on criminals laundering their money through the UK.
The introduction of the Criminal Finances Act 2017provides powers such as Unexplained Wealth Orders to law enforcement agencies to help them seize the proceeds of crime.
More than £2bn of criminal assets have been recovered under the Proceeds of Crime Act.