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Criminals could be laundering money in Redbridge as 155 properties are owned by offshore companies

PUBLISHED: 17:49 25 March 2019 | UPDATED: 18:05 25 March 2019

Most overseeas properties are owned by companies registered in the British Virgin Islands. Photo: Google Maps

Most overseeas properties are owned by companies registered in the British Virgin Islands. Photo: Google Maps

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Criminals could be laundering money through property in Redbridge after more than 150 buildings were found to be owned by companies registered in offshore tax havens.

Global Witness, said it is increasingly clear that UK property is one of the favourite tools of criminals for stashing and laundering stolen cash. Photo: ArchanrtGlobal Witness, said it is increasingly clear that UK property is one of the favourite tools of criminals for stashing and laundering stolen cash. Photo: Archanrt

Some 155 buildings in the borough are owned by companies based in so-called secrecy jurisdictions – countries whose laws allow them to keep their financial activities private or to pay a low amount of tax.

Campaign group Global Witness compiled the research and warned of the “alarming scale of the UK’s secret property scandal”.

Ava Lee, senior anti-corruption campaigner at Global Witness, said: “It’s increasingly clear that UK property is one of the favourite tools of the criminal and corrupt for stashing and laundering stolen cash.

“There’s some good news – Parliament is reviewing a draft law that could force these secret owners out of the shadows.

“We’re calling on the government to table this legislation as quickly as possible, so we can find out who really owns so much of the UK.”

Companies registered in the British Virgin Islands own the largest share of properties in Redbridge followed by Jersey, with 35, and Guernsey, with 20.

Across London, there are 43,270 properties owned by overseas companies, worth an estimated £73billion , and 93per cent of these buildings are registered in secret jurisdictions.

An HMRC spokesman said there is absolutely no place for illicit finance in the UK.

“We take our response to money laundering very seriously through our supervision of high-risk sectors,” he said.

“Increasingly we are seeking to use our supervisory, enforcement and tax powers in concert, enabling us to increase our focus on the enablers of tax crime and money laundering.”

He added that estate agents were legally obliged to register with HMRC for anti-money laundering supervision, and faced action if they failed to do so.

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