Much delayed legislation outlined in the Economic Crime (Enforcement and Transparency) Bill is now expected as early as this week, in part to target the finances of Russian Oligarchs, close to President Putin and operating within the UK. However, measures involving changes of procedures by Companies House may still take many months to impact those currently under scrutiny.
Register of Beneficial Ownership
A beneficial ownership register would mean that anonymous foreign owners of property within the UK would have to reveal their identities and could no longer hide behind shell companies.
The register is likely to apply retrospectively, including property bought by overseas nationals, up to twenty years ago in England and Wales and since 2014 in Scotland. Entities that do not declare the beneficial owner could face restrictions on selling property or up to five years in prison.
Plans have been announced to introduce a new levy in order to raise £100 million per year from the anti-money laundering regulated sector to help fund reforms outlined in the 2019 Economic Crime Plan.
Unexplained Wealth Orders
The legislation also makes it easier for Unexplained Wealth Orders (UWOs) to be issued by authorities, which means that properties may be seized without having to prove to a legal standard that they were gained through criminal activity.
The announcement comes as the UK Government, alongside the US and European Union, have imposed sanctions on Russia and its supporters in response to the invasion of Ukraine. The package of sanctions is the strongest that England has ever inflicted on Russia and aims to ensure that Russia will suffer financially.
Money Laundering Regulations
Propertymark has long supported proposals for transparency of ownership through a public register to go hand in hand with Money Laundering Regulations, to avoid criminal funds being concealed, and has made suggestions to the UK Government on how this could best be implemented.