Overseas entities who own land in the UK may be subject to new laws thanks to a new Bill being rushed through Parliament. The Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Bill aims to prevent and combat the use of land in the UK for money laundering purposes.
Fraud solicitor – England & Wales
If you have been accused of fraud, money laundering or another financial crime, please contact us at Ashmans Solicitors. We can represent you throughout proceedings. We are available to take your call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Why are new laws needed?
As of 2016, most UK entities which own land have been required to provide information about their controllers and owners. However, these rules have not yet been applied to overseas entities. Currently, the land can be registered under the name of the company or entity, meaning the real owner or controller is not known. Law enforcement says this makes it easier for overseas entities to hide and launder the proceeds of crime in the UK. This practice has come under the spotlight since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Campaigners claim ‘dirty money’ is being laundered across the UK, particularly in London.
The Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Bill would create a register of overseas entities that own land in the UK. The register would be held by Companies House.
The Bill would also see a number of changes to the ways in which Unexplained Wealth Orders (UWOs) are used. UWOs require a person to explain the origin of assets that appear to be disproportionate to their known lawfully obtained income. UWOs are already available to law enforcement agencies in the UK, but it was felt that some reform was needed. In particular, the Bill would:
- Extend the amount of time a court can allow property to be frozen under a UWO
- Limit legal costs for enforcement authorities who use UWOs, unless they used the powers unreasonably, improperly or dishonestly
- Counter the unwillingness or inability of kleptocratic foreign states to provide reliable support to UK enforcement investigations
- Allow UK enforcement authorities to meet the evidential standard at the investigation’s outset
Furthermore, amendments are to be made to the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018. This will help the Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation (OFSI) to impose monetary penalties for breaches of financial sanctions. OFSI will also be given greater intelligence and information sharing powers.
When are the changes coming into effect?
The Government has asked that the Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Bill be rushed through Parliament. This is allowed in certain circumstances. The Government has laid out a number of justifications for their request. Amongst other things, it says an urgent response is needed due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Therefore, the new law could be implemented sooner, rather than later. We will keep you updated as and when further announcements are made.
Solicitor – England & Wales
If you been accused of a financial crime in the UK, please call us on 0333 009 6275. We are available to take your call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.