…money is in and of itself dirty. Britain is in and of herself d i r t y …. and now its awash with d i r t. That’s fucking awesome let me tell you!
‘Britain awash with dirty money,’ says anti-corruption think tank
Criminals, tax evaders, human traffickers and drug dealers have laundered billions of pounds worth of dirty money purchasing British properties through anonymous offshore companies, Scotland Yard investigators suspect.
The Metropolitan Police say more than £180 million (US$276 million) worth of British property has been subject to criminal investigation since 2004 as potential proceeds from corruption.
Detectives say this figure is merely the tip of the iceberg.
While tax evasion and corruption are likely to be the most common sources of dirty money in Britain, drug dealing, human trafficking and black-marketeering where sanctions are in place are also possible origins, police say.
The sheer scale of the problem was uncovered on Wednesday by a report produced by anti-corruption think tank Transparency International (TI) UK. The group says the UK has become “a safe haven for corrupt capital stolen from around the world.”
Web of secrecy
In London, roughly 36,342 properties have been purchased through clandestine front companies in offshore tax havens.
Favored locations include the British Virgin Islands, the Isle of Man and Jersey.
Britain’s wealthiest borough, Westminster, has the highest proportion of properties held offshore (9.3 percent), while Kensington and Chelsea follow closely (7.3 percent).
Although many of these sales remain secret for legitimate privacy purposes, a large proportion are thought to have been purchased to stash ill-gotten gains.
Some 50 percent of the 144 properties subject to Met investigation are registered to firms in UK offshore territory Jersey. In such a case, the owner or benefactor’s identity remains obscured from public knowledge.
Meanwhile, £3.8 billion worth of UK property was purchased by British Virgin Island (BVI) registered firms in 2011.
TI UK says authorities’ response to Britain’s continued influx of ill-gotten gains is inadequate.
Suspicious Activity Reports (SRAs) are commonly submitted by executives in financial firms to state authorities to report suspicious financial activity.
The most recent official figures indicate estate agents only submitted 0.05 percent of SRAs tendered to the government in 2013-14. TI UK says this figure does not represent the risks money launderers pose to Britain’s property market.