By Steve Punter (Sadiq Khan MP) [CC BY-SA 2.0] via Wikimedia Commons
Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, has slammed the Government for the delays over disclosing the foreign owners of UK property, saying that the progress on a public register was “bitterly disappointing” as the mayor suggested that the current lack of transparency could be supporting terrorism and other crimes.
Khan has written to the Business Secretary, Greg Clark, requesting him to expedite the process of implementing a new public register which would reveal the people who benefit from properties that are controlled by companies that are overseas and other legal entities.
Khan said that this could help prevent various offences including theft, tax evasion, and terrorist activities.
Owners and controllers of companies in the United Kingdom are already compelled to be registered with the Companies House. However, overseas businesses are not required to register. In 2013, ministers initially committed to a public register of the beneficial owners of registered companies in the United Kingdom, before increasing the scope to include foreign companies that own properties in Britain in 2016.
However, last January, it was announced that the register would still not be operational until 2021, eight years after the introduction of the plan.
In a letter, Khan stated: “The Government’s slow pace of progress on this issue has been bitterly disappointing.” He said that setting up the said register had already taken too long. He added: “For an issue which is of such importance in London, this is completely unacceptable.”
Approximately 44 percent of all the properties in the United Kingdom that are owned by companies that are registered overseas are located in London.
Khan said that the Government should concentrate on publishing the legislation that would authorize the register to be established. It is hoped that the initial legislation could be presented to the MPs before the Parliament ends for its summer recess. However, Khan said that he was concerned that the timetable could move.
Various campaign groups, as well as politicians, have suggested that making it mandatory for owners of properties in the United Kingdom to reveal themselves would help in fighting crime.
Transparency International UK’s Rachel Davies Teka said that the register would be able to “strike a huge blow against corrupt individuals who view our homes as nothing more than safety deposit boxes to hide their loot.”