The UK Government is planning to sell off the Land Registry, which maintains the evidence of ownership of properties in England and Wales. Speaking in the House of Commons, David Lammy MP said:
"Any privatization of the Land Registry will have serious consequences for transparency and accountability in the UK property market and hinder efforts to crack down on corruption and money entering the UK property market via offshore jurisdictions."
Critics say that selling off the Land Registry would allow the new company to charge excessive fees for searches of land ownership and that such a company may end up falling into the hands of an offshore tax vehicle, undermining its transparency.
Land Registry privatisation, even getting the thumbs down from many Conservative MP's, so it really must be a non starter, stop sell off now— Angela Rayner MP (@AngelaRayner) June 30, 2016
Robert Barrington, Executive Director, Transparency International UK told Sputnik:
"We need as much transparency in the system as possible about property ownership which will act as a deterrent to investing the proceeds of corruption. Any proposals about the future of the Land Registry should have transparency and access at their core."
Lammy said: "There is only one Land Registry; it is a compulsory monopoly and we need to reflect on what would happen if this public monopoly became a private monopoly. We would have profiteering-pure and simple-by ripping off the public with inflated fees.
"The Government are looking to sell off the family silver to turn a short-term profit to try to make their sums add up. This privatization is purely political, with absolutely no regard for what is right for the Land Registry or indeed the people of this country. The short-term profit derived from any sale will be dwarfed by the increased costs that are ultimately paid by all of us in the form of increased fees," Lammy said.
Rachel Davies, Head of UK Advocacy and Research Transparency International UK told Sputnik in June: "It's absolutely true that the UK is one of the leading financial centers for the laundering of corrupt money from overseas, whether through the property market, luxury goods or other sectors."
"Our research found that 36,000 London properties are owned through secretive offshore companies with little scrutiny over the source of wealth in those transactions. The UK has been a prime location for stashing away illicitly gained wealth, as anti-money laundering systems are weak and sectors such as UK property represent a safe investment, as well as a place to hide corrupt money," Davies told Sputnik.