The United Kingdom is moving quickly to pass laws to combat money laundering by foreign billionaires.
The government’s move comes in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Foreign property owners will be required to identify their names rather than hiding behind businesses as part of the measures.
It comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson imposed economic penalties against prominent Russian banks and leaders on Tuesday.
Mr Johnson stated that “dirty money has no place in the UK.”
“We’re working harder and quicker to dismantle the facade that people who support Putin’s wrecking campaign have been hiding behind for so long.”
“Those who support Putin have been warned: there will be no hiding place for your ill-gotten money,” Mr Johnson concluded.
The measure, according to the government, will enhance the National Crime Agency’s efforts to combat corruption.
Foreign owners of UK property will be required to report and authenticate their identity with Companies House under the Economic Crime Bill.
The goal is to prevent foreign criminals and oligarchs from forming corporations or purchasing property in the UK through the use of agents.
Property sales will be restricted for entities that refuse to reveal their owners, and those who flout the regulation might face up to five years in prison.
The record also covers property purchased by overseas owners in England and Wales up to 20 years ago, and property purchased in Scotland starting in December 2014.
The government also stated that Companies House will have more information on businesses in order to promote corporate transparency.
Last week, the National Crime Agency said that its ‘Kleptocracy’ division would begin investigating sanctions evasion and would be able to seize crypto-assets used for money laundering.
The legislation further tightens Unexplained Wealth Orders (UWOs), which were implemented in January 2018 to combat suspected illegal money invested in real estate.
However, UWOs have only been utilized four times since 2018, with only one resulting in property surrender.
UWOs will be changed to provide law enforcement agencies more time to analyze case materials and to insulate them from significant legal fees if they pursue reasonable cases that fail.
“Time is up for Putin’s cronies concealing filthy money in the UK, and this new law will assist to crack down on economic crime, especially by removing crucial hurdles to invoking Unexplained Wealth Orders,” said Home Secretary Priti Patel.
Labour will “scrutinize the strength of these measures, which the government must execute in their fullest form to fight filthy money once and for all,” according to shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves.
“The long-awaited Register of Overseas Entities, which was first promised in 2016, must now be executed quickly. Any transition phase must be concluded by the end of March, and strict enforcement mechanisms must be in place “she went on.
The new registry would “shine a light” on who owns what in the UK, according to Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng, allowing the government to “flush out the oligarchs, crooks, and kleptocrats who think they can use UK property to hide their illicitly gained money.”
Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, said the restrictions were “positive” but “didn’t go far and fast enough.”
“We need an immediate crackdown on illicit funding, corruption, and organized crime related to Russia, in addition to tough sanctions. For far too long, crooked elites tied to organized crime have exploited the City of London and the UK economy as a laundry “Ms Cooper said.
Transparency International, a global anti-corruption organization, has found at least £1.5 billion in UK property held by Russians convicted of financial crimes or with ties to the Kremlin.
Mr Johnson said the government will limit the amount of money Russian people may deposit in their UK bank account as part of the current round of penalties.