LONDON, Jan 18 (Reuters) - Britain will introduce a public register that will compel foreign companies which own or buy property to disclose their ultimate owners in a bid to crack down on money-laundering, the business ministry said on Thursday.
London property in particular has attracted foreign buyers in recent years thanks to its mix of top-end apartments, luxury penthouses and gleaming skyscrapers alongside corporations who use the city as global hub.
But the release of the “Panama Papers” in 2016 helped shine a light on firms and individuals who use complex structures to base themselves abroad, putting the issue of tax avoidance at the top of the global agenda.
Since 2004, Britain has launched criminal investigations into more than 180 million pounds’ ($250 million) worth of real estate suspected of being linked to corruption, with over 75 percent of properties still being looked into using offshore secrecy.
“This world-first register will build on our reputation for corporate transparency as well as helping to create a hostile environment for economic crimes like money-laundering,” said business minister Greg Clark.
The register will be available by early 2021. (Reporting by Costas Pitas; editing by Stephen Addison)