Pandora Papers show threat of money laundering in UK property market

Jake Carter

October 5, 2021

pandora papers

The Pandora Papers leak, where the owners of 1,500 properties bought using offshore firms were revealed by a BBC investigation, shows the weaknesses to money laundering within the UK property market, according to John Dobson, chief executive of SmartSearch.

Extensive details were outlined within the ‘Pandora Papers’ leak of offshore financial documents, listing homes with an estimated total value of over £4bn.

The properties were found to be owned by high profile foreign politicians, individuals accused of corruption and UK political donors, such as Sir Philip Green, the Qatari ruling family, a Ukrainian billionaire and Russian oligarch.

A new law related to this is expected to be brought in by ministers when they have parliamentary time to do so, as reported by the BBC.

Successive Conservative governments have promised to add legislation making it compulsory to name those owning property via foreign companies.

John Dobson, chief executive of SmartSearch, said: “From sex traffickers to drug smugglers and terrorists, those who launder money through purchasing property include some of the worst criminals on the planet.

“Although sadly not a new issue, the threat of money-laundering through the purchase of property has increased recently.

“With the pandemic causing transactions to be conducted remotely, the UK government recently raised its own assessment of the money laundering risk for the property market from ‘medium’ to ‘high’.

“For those working in the property purchase chain, offshore buyers should raise a red flag.

“While legal to own property through an offshore firm, it is key to identify who is actually providing the funds.

“Finding the ultimate beneficial owner, and then screening them against sanctions lists takes significant time through traditional methods.

“This doesn’t need to be the case. By using an electronic verification system, money-laundering through offshore funds could be dramatically reduced.

“The system will identify who is the beneficiary of the transaction, and even screen them against global sanction lists to identify whether they, or anyone they are close to is involved in illicit activities.

“The government is assessing how to prevent money-laundering through legislation, we’d strongly recommend they mandate the use of electronic verification.

“As the individual is identified through credit checks, electronic verification not only avoids the issue of forged documents, it also screens them against the hundreds of constantly changing worldwide sanctions lists.”

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