Almost 2000 properties in Tower Hamlets owned by tax haven companies

Anonymously owned properties. Pic: Natalie Holt

Almost 2000 properties in Tower Hamlets are owned by anonymous companies registered in offshore tax havens, ranking it as the fourth worst London borough such ownership, according to a new report.

Global Witness, an independent anti-corruption organisation, claims that over 87,000 properties across England and Wales, worth £100bn, are secretly owned by companies registered overseas.

Westminster tops the list at 10000, which is followed by 5,729 in Kensington and Chelsea, and Camden, with 2320 properties. Tower Hamlets has 1930.

According to the Land Registry, the value of these properties is at least £56 billion, but likely to be in excess of £100 billion when accounting for all the missing price information.

Ava Lee, a senior anti-corruption campaigner at Global Witness, 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. This analysis reveals the alarming scale of the UK’s secret property scandal.

“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 Government has promised to reveal the ownership of UK property in a bid to tackle corruption and money-laundering, but progress has been slow and this cannot be in place until after 2020.

According investigations by  Global Witness, the UKs property market has become a money-laundering vehicle for the world’s criminals, including people smugglers, drug runners and weapons smugglers and corrupt politicians laundering  dirty  money.

“Our property market is serving as a money-laundering vehicle for the world’s criminal and corrupt. But we can stop this happening. Real estate agents should be made to identify the real buyers of properties, rather than just the paper companies they hide behind.” said Chido Dunn, Global Witness campaigner.

Tower Hamlets Council did not respond to requests for comment.

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