UK property investors include Kremlin allies: study

UK property investors include Kremlin allies: study

"Londongrad" has long been accused of turning a blind eye to suspect Russian cash

LONDON - Almost 52,000 UK properties are owned by anonymous investors, including some "close to the Kremlin", a report said Tuesday despite laws seeking to stop dirty Russian cash after Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

Properties together worth more than pound sterling6.7 billion ($8.1 billion) -- particularly luxury London real estate -- have been purchased "with suspect funds" via "secretive offshore companies", anti-corruption campaigners Transparency International UK said in a report.

More than a fifth, or pound sterling1.5 billion, was ploughed into property with "suspect funds from Russia, including those subject to sanctions and close to the Kremlin", it added.

The report comes after Britain launched a legal crackdown last year on Russian money coming from shell companies, tax havens and opaque ownership structures.

That was part of broader economic sanctions after Moscow launched its assault on neighbouring Ukraine almost one year ago.

The government in August launched a new "Register of Overseas Entities", requiring foreign companies to declare the ultimate beneficiary of any property they hold in the UK.

But campaigners say the register remains open to abuse.

More than 18,000 offshore companies together hold almost 52,000 properties in England and Wales, the Transparency International report said.

Those companies "have either ignored the law altogether or submitted information which makes it impossible for the public to find out who owns them", it continued.

"This includes firms reportedly owned by kleptocrats, oligarchs and individuals subject to sanctions."

The campaign organisation added that Britain remained a "hub" for illicit cash -- and urged more government action.

"Transparency over who really owns property here is vital to addressing Britain's role as a global hub for dirty money," said Duncan Hames, the group's policy director.

"Our analysis reveals there are far too many companies that could be trying to skirt the rules, not knowing they exist, or ignoring them altogether.

"Without action from parliament to close loopholes in the law and active enforcement ... this promising reform will fall short of its aim in providing fewer places for corrupt wealth to hide."

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