Press release 04th Sep 2023

Transparency campaigners urge government to back Lords amendments and close dirty money loopholes

Press Office
[email protected]
+ 44 (0)20 3096 7695 
Out of hours:
Weekends; Weekdays (17.30-21.30):
+44 (0)79 6456 0340

Related Publication

MPs have the chance to tighten Britain’s rules on offshore property ownership as the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill returns to the Commons today.

The House of Commons will today (4 September) consider Lords’ amendments to the Economic Crime Bill, aimed at closing some of these loopholes in the Register of Overseas Entities, but the government is currently opposing these proposals.

Amendment 117 – introduced by Conservative peer Lord Agnew and passed by the House of Lords would close a loophole allowing those who own property through complex ownership arrangements involving opaque trusts to remain hidden from public view. The amendment would allow Companies House to publish information about trusts controlling offshore companies holding land in the UK, bringing the transparency requirements that apply to other forms of property ownership to these arrangements.

Rose Zussman, Policy Manager, Transparency International UK said:

Last year, in the wake of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the UK Government passed landmark legislation designed to reveal dirty money hidden in the housing market. However, gaps in this legislation remain, which mean the ownership of property in Britain can still be kept from public view through the use of opaque trusts.

“A cross-party amendment, led by one of the Government’s own former Ministers, would close this loophole, and enable those investigating financial crime to identify the true owners of thousands of properties across the country.

“As the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill returns to the Commons today, we urge Ministers to heed their colleagues’ calls to close this gap once and for all – and bring real transparency to overseas ownership of UK land.”

The call comes as a new report [1] published by researchers from the London School of Economics (LSE), the University of Warwick, and the Centre for Public Data reveals over 70% of properties held via overseas shell companies (109,000 out of 152,000 properties) still do not publish information about who really owns them, despite government commitments to crack down on anonymous ownership of UK property.

Catch me if you can: Gaps in the Register of Overseas Entities – released on the eve of Parliament returning to debate the Economic Crime Bill – finds that for 35% of properties owned via overseas shell companies (54,000 out of 152,000), even law enforcement agencies do not know the true identities of the properties’ beneficial owners. In 10% of cases (15,000 properties), the company is missing from the Register altogether, and in a further 25%, (39,000 properties) essential information has not been reported.


Notes to editors

[1] Catch me if you can: Gaps in the Register of Overseas Entities