UK Government aims to unveil hidden property ownership and fight corruption
By Law News
Government consults for transparency in property sector, combating corruption through clearer land trust ownership
In a bid to tackle corruption and foster transparency within the property sector, the UK government has initiated a consultation to enhance the clarity surrounding land trust ownership. The primary focus is to unveil the true beneficiaries behind trust-owned land, a step aimed at curbing potential corruption and ensuring a fairer housing and land market.
The consultation, launched on December 27, 2023, intends to rectify the current opacity within land ownership held by trusts. Presently, information about the ultimate beneficiaries of these trusts often remains undisclosed or inaccessible to the public, potentially fostering secrecy and illicit practices within the sector.
The proposed changes seek to empower residents, media, and the general public by providing comprehensive information about property ownership, control, and financial beneficiaries. Housing Secretary Michael Gove emphasized the significance of knowing the genuine owners, citing its impact on various aspects like housing, agriculture, and the nation's energy infrastructure.
Minister for Enterprise, Markets, and Small Business, Kevin Hollinrake, highlighted the government's commitment to combatting fraudulent activities. He underlined the importance of transparency in the Register for Overseas Entities, particularly in identifying individuals utilizing false identities to acquire British properties and in holding absentee landlords accountable.
The envisioned alterations aim to simplify access to diverse land and property ownership data across public registers, ensuring extensive and easily accessible information. This transparency initiative aligns with efforts to mitigate illicit financial activities and corruption, especially focusing on offshore trusts operating within the UK property sector—a sector identified with a heightened risk of money laundering.
The consultation period, lasting eight weeks, seeks public input on widening access to trust information within the Register of Overseas Entities and strategies to enhance the transparency of trust-involved land ownership.
These initiatives align with the government's commitment under the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Act 2023, aiming to improve trust information transparency. The government intends, based on this consultation, to implement changes promptly thereafter.
These actions build upon previous legislative measures, such as strengthening the Register of Overseas Entities and the Trust Registration Service, aimed at combating money laundering and terrorist financing by revealing the actual owners of offshore companies owning UK land.
This step complements the transparency mandates outlined in the Levelling-up and Regeneration Act, which demand extensive information on property ownership and scrutinize legal property ownership to unearth the true beneficiaries.