Labour’s housing spokesperson on the London Assembly wants estate agents and mayor Boris Johnson to take money laundering in property more seriously.
Tom Copley says recent studies by global pressure group Transparency International suggests over 36,000 London properties are held by companies operating in offshore tax havens.
“Owing to the secretive nature of these havens we know very little about the true owners of the properties or, just as importantly, where the money used to purchase them came from to begin with” he says on Left Foot Forward, a political blog.
He adds that: “Evidence shows that the average price of a property under criminal investigation in the UK is £1.5m with some worth up to £9m. It’s clear that criminals are targeting the most expensive properties to harvest their ill-gotten gains.”
Copley believes there is a knock-on effect for ordinary Londoners, as residential prices rise as a result of demand from offshore purchasers.
“In the past we’ve raised concerns about money laundering, only to be dismissed and brushed off by Boris Johnson” claims Copley.
“When we asked him what he thought of the Transparency International report on money laundering he said it “asserted that it was ‘likely’ that that there was a link between ‘corrupt capital’, overseas investment and rising house prices but did not produce any evidence to suggest the nature and scale of any such relationship.”
Copley suggests that prime minister David Cameron - who last week called for the Land Registry to make offshore ownership details much more transparent - disagrees with Johnson’s assessment of the problem.
“Publishing details of foreign companies investing in property is a good start but we really need to see increased efforts to identify and prosecute offenders, as well as pressure put on estate agents to carry out more thorough checks when selling top-price homes” says the Labour politician.