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Safe Havens

Offshore havens, such as British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies, are often favoured by corrupt individuals due to their secretive legal systems created to mask identities behind opaque ‘anonymous’ companies.

Unlike the UK, there is no public information about who controls companies in these jurisdictions.

Our research has found that these key offshore havens currently fail to meet basic standards for preventing money laundering. The UK’s connections with secrecy havens like the British Virgin Islands (BVI) and Cayman Islands are one reason why Britain is so alluring for corrupt individuals.

We know companies based in offshore havens are the favoured secrecy vehicle for corrupt individuals laundering their money in the UK. Their use is so problematic that the National Crime Agency has identified them as a strategic risk to the UK.

Our research shows 75% of UK properties under investigation for corruption are registered with offshore companies.

We have found that 91% of properties in London owned by overseas companies are controlled by anonymous corporate structures based in offshore havens. We have identified properties worth over £4.2 billion in London that are owned by individuals who are a corruption risk. 90 per cent of the companies used to buy these properties were incorporated in the BVI.

Journalists, citizens and businesses looking to find out who is behind anonymous companies hit a brick wall whenever they encounter them. Information on who controls anonymous companies is currently only made public by leaks, like the Panama Papers.

We think information about who controls anonymous companies based in offshore havens should be made public so corrupt individuals cannot hide from their crimes.


Check out our related publications, or read these blogs from our staff for more information:

Panama Papers expose UK role in global corruption – Written by Rachel Davies

Secrecy and the UK’s Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies: a step forward or a smokescreen? – Written by Robert Barrington





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