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Pandora Papers: The secret owners of UK property worth billions

The secret owners of more than 1,500 UK properties bought using offshore firms have been uncovered by a BBC investigation.

The details are featured in the Pandora Papers leak of offshore financial documents and list property with an estimated value in excess of £4bn.

The owners include high-profile foreign politicians, individuals accused of corruption and UK political donors.

Ministers say they will bring in a new law when they have parliamentary time.

Successive Conservative governments have pledged to introduce legislation making it compulsory to name those owning property via foreign companies in a bid to stamp out money-laundering.

Among the revelations:

Retail magnate Sir Philip Green and his wife went on a buying spree of London property while the couple’s recently sold High Street empire teetered on the verge of collapse
The Qatari ruling family purchased two of London’s most expensive homes through offshore companies, saving millions of pounds in tax
Ukrainian billionaire Gennadiy Bogolyubov, who is under investigation by the FBI and had hundreds of millions in assets frozen in a fraud case, owns more than £400m of UK property
A £40m London office block is owned by the son of sanctioned Russian oligarch Mikhail Gutseriev
The BBC worked with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), the Guardian, Finance Uncovered and other media outlets to identify in the leaked files the individuals behind overseas companies that owned property in England and Wales.

Owning real estate through an offshore firm is legal, and there is no suggestion of wrongdoing in simply using a foreign company to purchase property.

However, the UK government recently raised its own assessment of the money laundering risk for the property market from “medium” to “high”.

The greatest level of risk is where there are “difficulties in determining the ultimate beneficial owners”, according to a Home Office report in December 2020.

It comes as a number of world leaders – including the King of Jordan and the ruling family of Azerbaijan – have featured in the Pandora Papers leak after buying property in the UK using offshore companies.

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