We will put an end to the “illegal money racket” of the Russian oligarchs in the real estate market

Michael Gove has pledged to put an end to the “illegal money racket” of Russian oligarchs who are using remaining loopholes to buy and sell sprawling homes on condition of anonymity.

A bill produced by the Department of Housing sets out new powers that would require any company, trust or other entity involved in a property transaction to provide the Land Registry with details of its true beneficial owner in order to complete a purchase or sale.

The move is designed to help end Britain’s use as a safe haven for billionaires looking to launder illicit money or quietly store vast assets.

This goes further than existing plans to create a register of ‘beneficial’ owners of foreign companies, and means that details of the people behind any body, including trusts, would have to be revealed in order to complete a real estate transaction.

Houses transferred to trusts

The government has been frustrated that some Russian oligarchs appear to have avoided sanctions on lavish British homes by transferring them to trusts.

Mr Gove told the Telegraph: ‘Sunlight is the best disinfectant, and for too long the property market has been in the shadows. The only question asked when buying property in this country has been ‘how much’, and now we’re going to ask ‘who is this property really for’ and ‘where is this money coming from’?

“We want to stop once and for all the illicit money racketeering that has flooded the UK property market. Our property market will no longer be open to corrupt individuals and regimes laundering their money and hiding their identities.”

The Leveling and Reclamation Bill contains powers for Mr Gove to make regulations requiring those involved in the buying and selling of property to provide “contact details of parties to a transaction”, “the particulars of the persons on whose behalf or for whose benefit the parties to a transaction are or have acted” and “details of the source of any sums paid or other consideration given in connection with a transaction”.

Penny D. Jackson