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New register of overseas owners of UK properties ‘riddled with flaws’

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theguardian.com

The business secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, has promised that legislation coming into force on Monday will have an “immediate dissuasive effect on oligarchs attempting to hide their ill-gotten gains, ensuring that the UK is a place for legitimate business only”.However, a string of lawyers, tax experts, MPs, accountants and transparency campaigners are warning that the long-awaited register of overseas entities, which was sped through parliament after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, is “riddled with flaws and loopholes” and will have no impact on forcing corrupt oligarchs to reveal which UK mansions they own.The register is intended to, in the government’s words, “flush out corrupt elites laundering money through UK property” by forcing secretive overseas companies to reveal the true owner or risk “tough fines”, or even up to five years in prison.The Labour MP Margaret Hodge, who has long campaigned for a crackdown on secretive overseas ownership of UK property, complained that the register was “more lead balloon” than the “silver bullet we were promised would stop abuses like money laundering in our real estate sector”.She said: “The new register is riddled with flaws and loopholes that mean oligarchs and organised criminals will still be able to evade scrutiny and secretly purchase premium London property, such as Highgate mansions or Kensington townhouses.“To truly stop the flows of corrupt wealth into our housing market, the government must urgently put in place an open register of the true owners of UK land and property, not just of those owned by companies.

Anything less would demonstrate once and for all that this government is truly soft on dirty money.”John Cullinane, the director of public policy at the Chartered

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