the Prime Minister has warned there is “no place for dirty money” in Britain in a bid to tackle international corruption.
David Cameron issued the warning to foreign fraudsters and corrupt officials and promised to crack down on shady offshore companies buying up luxury properties.
In a speech in Singapore, Mr Cameron said the UK would host a summit on the problem next year and acknowledged “we too must get our house in order”.
The Prime Minister said: “There is no place for dirty money in Britain.
“With £122bn of property in England and Wales owned via offshore companies, we know that some high-value properties – particularly in London – are being bought by people overseas through anonymous shell companies, some with plundered or laundered cash.”
He highlighted cases including allegations of links between a former Kazakh secret police chief and a London property portfolio worth nearly £150m and Nigerian fraudster James Ibori, who owned upmarket properties in St John’s Wood, Hampstead, Regent’s Park and Dorset.
During his speech Mr Cameron warned: “I’m determined that the UK must not become a safe haven for corrupt money from around the world.
“We need to stop corrupt officials or organised criminals using anonymous shell companies to invest their ill-gotten gains in London property, without being tracked down.”
Launching a consultation on increasing transparency, he indicated that rules governing information on the beneficial ownership of British firms could be extended to overseas companies.
Details of property titles owned by foreign firms will be published for the first time by the Land Registry this autumn, providing a public database of overseas ownership.
Mr Cameron added: “The vast majority of foreign-owned businesses that invest in property in the UK are entirely legitimate and proper, and have nothing at all to hide.
“They are welcome in Britain. And I want more of them.
“I want Britain to be the most open country in the world for investment.
“But I want to ensure that all this money is clean money.
“There is no place for dirty money in Britain.
“Indeed, there should be no place for dirty money anywhere.
“That’s my message to foreign fraudsters: London is not a place to stash your dodgy cash.”
The Prime Minister indicated that he would put fresh pressure on Britain’s offshore tax havens to increase transparency around company ownership.
He warned: “To really tackle corruption effectively, we need to be able to trace data from one country to another.
“We don’t want criminals to be able to go unnoticed, just because they move money across borders or have assets in different countries. The torchlight should be able to follow them.
“If we are to win, we must make sure that there is nowhere to hide.
“So I’ll continue to make the case for transparency with international partners – including the British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies.”
Mr Cameron said yesterday that corruption was “the cancer at the heart of so many of the world’s problems” including the Mediterranean migration crisis and the rise of Islamist extremism.
The Prime Minister then added: “Corruption is one of the greatest enemies of progress in our time.”
Mr Cameron said the global Anti-Corruption Summit in London next year will be a meeting where “the whole world can work together to strengthen all the tools we have to take on corruption”.