London neighborhood wants to seize Russian mansions of ‘unknown origin’

London has long been known as a playground for Russia’s super-rich. But this could soon change as Westminster’s left-wing local council seeks to seize all homes purchased with dirty money and convert them back into housing for the community.

Westminster Council, which oversees some of London’s wealthiest boroughs such as Belgravia, Knightsbridge and Mayfair, is looking to seizure of property owned by Russia The council said in a statement.

The investigation will find out which assets have been obtained with “money of unknown origin” or “dirty money”—that includes homes purchased with cash proceeds from criminal activity, such as bribery or theft of state funds, as well as tax havens or public constructions. tax evasion.

The campaign to besiege these properties comes at a time when the number of villas in London’s wealthiest neighborhood with Russia links is growing exponentially. The number of UK properties whose owners’ primary address is in Russia reached 1,127 in August 2021, according to data released by the Land Registry under Freedom of Information legislation last year. That marks a 1,200% increase since the start of 2010 excluding other properties linked to tax haven states such as Jersey and the Seychelles, which may also be linked to Russian addresses.

The local council, which recently appointed Labor leader Adam Hug as a Councilor – the first non-conservative party leader in 58 years – plans to overhaul the previous system and make properties difficult. purchased with the money that was problematic in the first place.

“Westminster’s dirty secret has been known for years, but those in power have looked the other way for too long as money from questionable origins flooded London and investors took advantage of its relatively lax laws. us,” Hug said in a statement.

“It took the war in Ukraine to refocus attention on oligarchic investments and London became a laundromat of European dirty money,” says Hug.

Kremlin Link

At the start of the war, an analysis compiled by Harness Data Intelligence found 1,895 Russian-owned properties in London alone, more than three times higher than official figures, with most located in the center. city ​​center. Westinister district, home to 218 residences owned by Russian citizens, is the residence of Belgravia Eaton The square, which is nicknamed ‘Red Square’ due to the popularity of Russian billionaires.

According to Transparency International UK, Russians with ties to the Kremlin have bought nearly £430 million worth of property in Westminster since 2017.

But despite the ostentatious display of oligarchic wealth, Westminster city council will have a hard time figuring out which houses are owned by Russians. The absence of a public register of real estate ownership and the failure of government agencies to scrutinize company registries make it easy for foreign homebuyers to check their records and take advantage of the law of relativity. London’s lax and minimal tax rates.

Hug notes that the influx of dirty money into London has damaged the city’s reputation by supporting authoritarianism abroad, and adds that it “depletes the vitality of areas with empty or no homes.” used”.

Hug is meeting with property owners, experts and officials to launch the “Westminster Against Dirty Money” campaign, which will call on the government to limit the use of tax havens, increase increased funding to the national crime agency and HMRC to fight money laundering, and sought to require stronger identity checks when people buy homes and register companies.

Hug also wants stronger background checks on Company, the registrar of all companies in the UK, where anyone can set up a business organization for as little as £12. Hug is calling for this to be raised to £50 by companies with little oversight, Quote SpyPriest LimitedThe company lists its director as “Adolf Tooth Fairy Hitler.”

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