A US TV company is considering making a news programme about Russian involvement in property transactions in the UK and particularly London.
The company, which at this stage does not want to be named, is making contact with property journalists in a bid to assess the scale of Russian ownership and letting and other forms of involvement with property in the UK capital.
It says it is also interested in cataloguing London agents and other industry figures who have appeared on Russia Today, the Russian state-funded broadcaster which operates - amongst other networks - an English-language service.
The spotlight on Russian involvement in London property has been growing in recent weeks, since the start of the Salisbury nerve agent incident.
Campaigning organisation Transparency International says properties bought through offshore companies in the Westminster area of central London account for 9.3 per cent of the borough’s stock; in Kensington & Chelsea the figure is 7.3 per cent and in the City of London it’s 4.5 per cent.
The organisation is reported to believe that across London there are more than 36,000 such properties; this does not necessarily indicate that the properties are Russian owned.
However, as long ago as 2004 Knight Frank claimed that one in every 15 homes it sold in London in the previous year went to a Russian; in some areas, such as St John's Wood, Russians constituted a third of purchasers with more than £5m to spend.
In 2015 Channel 4 used secret filming and an undercover reporter posing as a Russian politician to target five high end London estate agencies in a bid to see how they operated to counter money laundering. Firms on camera included Winkworth, Marsh & Parsons, Domus Nova, Chard and Bective Leslie Marsh.
Earlier this year The Guardian reported that “new estimates reveal that prominent Russian figures with ties to the Putin regime own British properties worth nearly £1.1 billion, mostly in London, although the true value is likely to be far greater because buyers can take advantage of offshore secrecy loopholes” - however, the newspaper did not reveal the source of the new estimates.
British security minister Ben Wallace has told The Times in recent weeks that the "full force of government" would be brought to bear on any corruption involved in, amongst other things, the acquisition of property in the UK.
He says this will involve the first use of Unexplained Wealth Orders, introduced early this year, which allow assets to be seized if their provenance cannot be explained.