Most foreign firms owning London property are registered in tax havens: report

The vast majority of overseas companies that own property in London, including many used by individuals to help disguise their ownership, are registered in tax havens, according to a report by Transparency International UK and Thomson Reuters.

Just over 90 per cent of the 23,653 overseas companies owning 44,022 land titles in London were registered in places such as the British Virgin islands, Jersey, the Isle of Man and Panama, according to data analysed from the Land Registry.

London’s mix of top-end apartments, luxury penthouses and gleaming skyscrapers have long attracted foreign investors and major corporations who use the city as global hub which sits between Asia and America.

But the release of the “Panama Papers” earlier this year shone a light on firms and individuals who use complex structures to base themselves abroad, putting the issue of tax avoidance at the top of the global agenda.

Just over half of the land and property analysed in February was owned by anonymous companies in three areas: Kensington/Chelsea and Camden, which have some of the priciest homes and Westminster, Britain’s political hub.

The anti-corruption group Transparency International has long campaigned for greater openness and its UK Head of Advocacy Rachel Davies said Britons needed to have access to more information.

“It’s clear that a transparent system, based on conclusive and publicly available data, is necessary to unmask the corrupt individuals using Britain to hide their criminality,” she said.

Thomson Reuters, the parent company of Reuters News, worked with Transparency International, using its datasets with publicly available information. “The real surprise was how little information was available, and how difficult it is to find out who exactly owns some of London’s prime land and property,” Managing Director at Thomson Reuters’ Risk and Supply Chain Phil Cotter said.

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