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Over 70 Children Listed as Foreign Owners of UK Property: Lords

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A register used to identify dirty Russian money in the UK has 70 children listed as foreign company owners.

The House of Lords heard on Tuesday how the newly released Register of Overseas Entities (ROE) also includes one company owner born in 1897—making the person 126 years old.

The anomalies were discussed as peers revealed that the “overwhelming majority” of registered overseas companies belonged to British individuals—raising fears that some foreign entities had been used to evade UK tax laws.

Lords also raised concerns surrounding misleading information being submitted to the register—which reveals foreign ownership of British property.

Over 32,000 overseas companies own land and property in England and Wales and are legally bound under the new Economic Crime Act to reveal ownership to the UK government.

Those who fail to register or provide sufficient details on individuals behind foreign companies face stiff sanctions—including having assets frozen—and huge fines.

The Earl of Minto Timothy Elliot-Murray-Kynynmound told Tuesday’s Grand Committee hearing that 28,000 had so far registered.

He added that over 700 decided to dispose of land and property interests before the end of the transitional period, which ended on Jan. 31.

No enforcement action has yet been taken against the thousands that have so far failed to do so, the Earl said.

“At the moment, the main emphasis is trying to get the accuracy of the data,” the Earl said.

“No punishment has been meted out yet, but there is power—both financial and legal—to punish as and when.

“Companies House is working hard to get those cases under way, but its main emphasis has been on trying to get the information as accurate as possible so that a lot of the anomalies that sit within it can be effectively eliminated.”

More British Owners

Speaking about the number of children listed as foreign owners of property in England and Wales, Lord William Wallace told peers: “Over the weekend, I was quite surprised to get some interesting statistics from an organisation with which I was not previously familiar called Open Ownership.

“I note that Transparency International is one of the entities that funds and supports this new body.

“It gave me some very interesting figures including that, of the beneficial owners personally registered, some 70 appear to be under the age of 12, one appears to have been born in 1897, which makes him 126 now, and another was born in 1907, which makes him 116.”

Lord Wallace said figures gathered by the NGO also show that “the overwhelming majority of individuals” identified as beneficial owners so far were British, by both nationality and residence.

“I had expected more to be from Asia—Hong Kong, mainland China, and Singapore—and areas of eastern Europe, Cyprus, and elsewhere,” he said.

“The large majority of companies mentioned as beneficial owners were registered in either the UK or the three Crown dependencies.

“If what I have received is accurate, it suggests a considerable amount of a different sort of economic crime under way here, which is called tax evasion.”

Responding to the number of children listed as foreign company owners, the Earl of Minto said many related to “issues of family trusts, particularly with UK beneficial owners.”

The Lords also discussed amending a section of the ROE where company owners can request their home address is not included in publicly available documents if they are at risk from violence.

“The amendment to the protection regime will address the unintended consequences of the regulations as they stand, by removing the requirement to demonstrate the risk of violence or intimidation arising directly from the individual’s association with the overseas entity,” the Earl said.

Epoch Times Photo
The City of London financial district can be seen as people walk along the south side of the River Thames, in London, on March 19, 2021. (Henry Nicholls/Reuters)

Beijing Buy Up

Under the Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Act passed last March, foreign companies must declare their beneficial owners on the new register.

The move was designed to prevent Russian oligarchs and other foreign kleptocrats from laundering their “dirty money” through safe investments such as land and property in the UK—which are often disguised by opaque corporate ownership structures.

Further legislation currently going through Parliament will give additional powers to Companies House and the Insolvency Service with £20 million to recruit new teams of intelligence and analytical experts.

Overseas companies that have acquired land in the UK had until the end of January to declare their true beneficial owners under legislation fast-tracked through Parliament in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The Epoch Times revealed in February how the newly released overseas records showed China’s strengthening property grip on London’s financial district.

The Chinese regime has ploughed millions into commercial and residential properties in the affluent area using offshore companies.

On one London financial-district street alone, a Chinese Communist Party-controlled company owns eight large properties. The Gresham Street buildings—listed as numbers 52 to 66 (even)—were purchased for over £70 million on an unknown date by a company based in the British Virgin Islands.

Up until February, it was only known that an entity called “Blooming Sun Enterprise Holdings INC” was the sole owner of the multi-million-pound property portfolio. Now, thanks to the newly released register—set up to tackle foreign criminals laundering money through UK property—it can be revealed that the actual owner of the premises is one of the financial arms of the CCP.

Owner information listed for the city-centre properties show that the state-owned Bank of China is the actual proprietor.

The buildings, which include modern serviced apartments as well as a number of retail units, are not the only financial-district properties owned by the Chinese-controlled offshore company.

Campaigners, who described the new information as “concerning,” say politicians need to act on the growing influence of the Chinese regime on Britain’s shores.

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