Declaring “there is no place for dirty money in Britain”, British Prime Minister David Cameron says he will take on those using shell companies to invest ill-gotten gains in London real estate.
The British government has come under criticism after an official at the National Crime Agency said foreign criminals were driving up property values in London when they stash laundered money in real estate.
Mr Cameron said Britain’s Land Registry would publish data on foreign companies that own real estate in England and Wales, affecting about 100,000 property titles, and the government would look into ways to make foreign companies more transparent.
“London is not a place to stash your dodgy cash,” said Mr Cameron from Singapore.
In his remarks, Mr Cameron cited the case of James Ibori, a former Nigerian governor who was sentenced to 13 years in prison in Britain for laundering money. He owned property in St John’s Wood, Hampstead, Regent’s Park and Dorset, all of which Mr Cameron said was paid for with money stolen from the Nigerian people.
A wider British probe into Delta State, where Mr Ibori was governor, led to the prison sentence handed down last week for Mr Ibori’s brother-in-law for money laundering.
The issue of corporate ownership of real estate, however, is not isolated to London. It’s a problem New York City is also trying to address under new rules from Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration requiring the names of all members of a shell company that is buying or selling property be disclosed to the city.
Activists welcomed Mr Cameron’s moves but said they wanted more.