Public register of ‘beneficial ownership’ for foreign entities holding property in the UK proposed

2nd May 2017

The UK Government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (“BEIS”) has outlined plans for what is said to be the world’s first public register of the beneficial ownership of overseas companies owning UK property or engaging in UK central government procurement as part of the Government’s drive to build a fair economy.

Since 2004, over £180 million worth of UK property has been identified by investigators as being the suspected proceeds of crime. Accordingly, BEIS anticipate that the introduction of the beneficial ownership register will help law enforcement agencies track down and recover proceeds of crime. The beneficial ownership register is intended to be similar to the ‘Persons with Significant Control’ (“PSC”) company ownership register and this requires that all companies in England and Wales submit to Companies House a register of the people who can influence or control the company.

Under the proposals published on 5 April 2017, BEIS propose that the register would list the beneficial owners of:

  • overseas companies and other legal entities which own or wish to acquire UK property; and
  • overseas legal entities who are involved in or bid on central government procurement contracts.

The proposal by BEIS comes amid concern that an increasing number of foreign criminals are investing in the UK property market as a means of laundering the proceeds of crime and the introduction of the register would continue to strengthen the UK’s position as a world leader in terms of corporate transparency and anti-corruption.

The consultation will remain open until 15 May 2017.

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