Prime Minister David Cameron hosted an international anti-corruption summit in London Thursday and used the event to announce steps to end the secret ownership of property in the UK by foreigners.
“For the first time,” Cameron said in a statement, “foreign companies that already hold or want to buy property in the UK will be forced to reveal who really owns them.”
Foreign companies own around 100,000 properties in England and Wales. Over 44,000 of them are in London, the UK government said.
Any foreign company that wants to buy UK property or bid for central government contracts will have to join a new public register of beneficial ownership information.
“This will be the first register of its kind anywhere in the world,” the PM said.
Forty jurisdictions with major financial centers will automatically share the beneficial ownership information.
The disclosure rules will apply to companies who already own property in the UK and to new buyers.
“The new register for foreign companies will mean corrupt individuals and countries will no longer be able to move, launder, and hide illicit funds through London’s property market, and will not benefit from our public funds,” the PM’s statement said.
According to Cameron, France, the Netherlands, Nigeria, and Afghanistan have agreed to launch their own public registers of true company ownership.
Australia, New Zealand, Jordan, Indonesia, Ireland, and Georgia agreed to take “the initial steps” towards making similar arrangements.
The UK beneficial ownership register will launch next month, the statement said.
Cameron Thursday called corruption an evil that reaches into every corner of the world.
“It lies at the heart of the most urgent problems we face — from economic uncertainty, to endemic poverty, to the ever-present threat of radicalization and extremism,” he said.
He said graft is a global problem that needs a global solution.
“It needs an unprecedented, courageous commitment from world leaders to stand united, to speak into the silence, and to demand change,” he said.
The UK will create the world’s first International Anti-Corruption Coordination Center in London, in partnership with the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, and Interpol, the PM’s statement said.
The new center will provide international co-ordination and support to help law enforcement agencies and prosecutors work together across borders to investigate and punish corrupt elites and recover stolen assets.
On Monday, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists launched a searchable database that used the Panama Papers to index 320,000 offshore companies and the people behind them.
The Obama Administration last week announced a series of actions to end the use of anonymous corporations in the United States and require disclosure of beneficial owners when foreigners deposit money or buy assets in this country.
Transparency International-USA said the Obama Administration’s actions don’t go far enough.
Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog. He’ll be the keynote speaker at the FCPA Blog NYC Conference 2016.