The Register, which is administered by Companies House, came into force in the UK on 1 August 2022, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and was established to increase transparency in the ownership of overseas entities that own UK land.
Overseas entities who want to buy, sell or transfer property or land in the UK must register with Companies House and declare their registrable beneficial owners or managing officers.
The ROE was introduced by the Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Act 2022 and forms a key part of the government’s strategy to tackle global economic crime.
Previously, organised crime has used corporate structures such as overseas entities to invest in UK land and has been able to remain anonymous and largely invisible.
Identifying those who own and control such entities will help law enforcement agencies by providing more information than has previously been available, says the government. The Register will also help those seeking to transact with overseas entities to understand who they are doing business with.
Minister for Enterprise, Markets and Small Business Kevin Hollinrake said: “The Register for Overseas Entities is imperative in ensuring we weed out kleptocrats and oligarchs buying up British properties under false names and has already helped identify absent landlords so that they can be held to account.
“There is no place for fraud and other illegal activities in our society, so it is fantastic to see we’ve now had 30,000 registrations on the register, helping us to protect our citizens, business owners and bring criminals operating in the UK to justice.”
Failure to comply with the requirements of the ROE is a criminal offence. Penalties include fines of up to £2,500 a day, restrictions on the property, and the possibility of imprisonment.
The government faced criticism last year for failing to enforce fines of around £1bn on foreign firms that had not declared their owners.
Director of Intelligence and Law Enforcement Liaison at Companies House, Martin Swain, said: “Reaching 30,000 registrations is a significant milestone but also a positive sign that the Register is achieving its objective of enhancing the transparency of ownership of land and property in the UK by foreign entities.
“Our focus remains on continuing to improve the register and rigorously enforcing compliance, so this transparency is maintained and enhanced yet further,” he said.
“We will continue to scrutinise information on the register and will be vigilant in targeting individuals who attempt to avoid transparency. We will also ensure that we are proactively supporting our law enforcement colleagues to disrupt the use of UK property to hide illicit wealth.”
News about the number of registrations comes after a report in September of last year found that two-thirds of properties in England and Wales held by overseas shell companies did not reveal who owns them.
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