A first of its kind register, designed to root out corrupt oligarchs and elites attempting to hide ill-gotten gains through UK property, came into force on 1 August.
The Register of Overseas Entities will require anonymous foreign companies owning or seeking to buy UK land to reveal their true owners ensuring criminals cannot hide behind secretive chains of shell companies.
The reforms will support government efforts to root out Russian oligarchs and kleptocrats using UK land to hide illicit wealth.
The new rules mean any foreign company wishing to buy UK property will have to identify its beneficial owner and present verified information to Companies House before any application to the UK’s land registries can be made. Those overseas entities that already own land in the UK that is in scope will have a six-month transitional period, starting today, to register their beneficial owners or managing officers.
Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones commented: “There is a long history of increasing property prices in the UK and constant rumours that some property purchases are just a safe haven for ill-gotten gains. This measure alongside others such as unexplained wealth orders and the work of the UK economic crime team is helping root out financial corruption and malpractice.”
To ensure criminals are targeted effectively, the register applies retrospectively to property bought since January 1999 in England and Wales, and since December 2014 in Scotland. Those foreign companies that do not comply with the new obligations could face severe criminal sanctions, including fines of up to £2,500 per day or a prison sentence of up to five years.