Political and business elites from the former Soviet Union will face more public scrutiny of their expensive real estate holdings in Britain under a new plan announced on May 12 by Prime Minister David Cameron.
Under the initiative, aimed at cracking down on inflows of dirty money, foreign companies that own or buy real estate in Britain would have to sign up to a public registry disclosing the properties’ beneficial ownership. It’s a technique that uses secretive offshore companies to shield the true owners’ identities.
Precisely how the new rules will be enforced is unclear. But with numerous wealthy officials and businesspeople from Russia and other former Soviet countries having snapped up pricey properties in London in recent years, the initiative could ultimately force them into the spotlight.
Here’s a look at some of these individuals and their relatives whose possible ownership of British real estate could be revealed under the new rules:
A first deputy prime minister under President Vladimir Putin, Shuvalov has publicly acknowledged owning foreign real estate. In his mandatory income disclosures, he has stated that he rents an Austrian home and a 483-square meter apartment in London. But anticorruption crusader Aleksei Navalny last year accused Shuvalov of obscuring his actual ownership of the London property. He posted a British land registry document showing that ownership of the property, which overlooks the river Thames, was transferred in 2014 to a Russian company controlled by Shuvalov and his wife for a listed sale price of 11.44 million pounds ($18 million). Cameron’s new transparency initiative, Navalny said on May 12, could force Shuvalov to reveal that “he is renting the apartment from his own offshore.”
Documents from the trove of leaked materials known as the Panama Papers have revealed that the daughters of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev — Leyla and Arzu Aliyeva — control a secretive offshore company set up in the British Virgin Islands last year to help manage their multimillion-dollar real estate holdings in Britain, according to media outlets that have seen the documents.
The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), which is one of the Panama Papers’ partners, reported last year that a 10,500-square-foot London mansion worth more than $25 million was owned by an Isle of Man-registered firm that, in turn, was previously owned by Aliyev. The president and his wife transferred their shares in the firm to their daughter, Leyla, in 2010, the report said.
The OCCRP has tied the Aliyev family to other multimillion-dollar properties in London formally owned by offshore firms as well.
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