Tower Hamlets is a favourite borough for anonymous property owners

Photo: Anthony Devlin/PA Archive/PA Images

Photo: Anthony Devlin/PA Archive/PA Images - Credit: PA Archive/Press Association Ima

New analysis shows that Tower Hamlets is among the worst areas for anonymous property ownership—a practice that can be use to hide money from criminal activity.

Tower Hamlets is the fourth worst London borough for anonymously owned properties, with 1,930 at the beginning of this year.

Westminster tops the list at 10,000.

The poverty and corruption body Global Witness revealed its analysis ahead of its March 18 presentation to a House of Commons Committee considering a bill to curb the use of properties in London to launder money.

“It’s increasingly clear that UK property is one of the favourite tools of the criminal and corrupt for stashing and laundering stolen cash. This analysis reveals the alarming scale of the UK’s secret property scandal” said Ava Lee, senior anti-corruption campaigner at Global Witness.

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The law being considered by the committee could see these secret owners named publicly.

Of the 87,000 properties with anonymous owners, 40 per cent of them are in London, where incredibly high prices make hiding larger sums easier.

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The charity wants the new law to find out who owns all that property, which adds up to £56 billion.

But that only accounts for the 30 per cent of the properties that said how much they were worth.

When accounting for all the missing price information, the total is estimated to be more than £100 billion.

People looking to hide their identity buy land or buildings with companies registered in countries that allow the names of company owners to remain secret.

Previous investigations by global witness have shown that criminals and corrupt politicians often use UK property to hide cash from criminal activity, as well as having a safe place for them and their families.

Boroughs that also topped the list were Kensington and Chelsea, with 5,729 anonymous properties, and Camden with 2,320.

On Buckingham Palace Road, the Queen’s doorstep, there are buildings that cost an estimated total of £350 million that are held secretly.

Information for the analysis comes from the Land Registry’s overseas owners data, which is accurate as of January 1, 2019.

In 2015 Global Witness revealed that a secret London property empire totalling £147 million was owned by a secret police chief from Kazakhstan.

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