UK fines overseas entities for ignoring property register

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Unaudited Companies House data shows that only £580,000 of the fines have been paid, which is around 2.65% of the total

Britain has fined more than 400 overseas entities for failing to sign up to a new register designed to shed light on illicit wealth hidden in UK property, although less than 3% of the penalties have been paid so far, according to new data.

Companies House, Britain’s public corporate registry, told Reuters it had fined nearly 423 unregistered overseas entities a total of £21.86 million to date, using powers it received last June to help disrupt Britain’s relationship with Russian money.

Unaudited Companies House data shows that only £580,000 of the fines have been paid – around 2.65% of the total – reflecting the challenges faced by the registrar in pursuing rule-breakers.

The U.S. and EU have urged Britain to do more to tackle money laundering in its financial system and overseas territories. A UK parliamentary report said in April economic crime cost Britain up to £350 billion each year.

Britain launched the Register of Overseas Entities (ROE) in the wake of Russia’s conflict with Ukraine to try to force often anonymous owners out of the shadows and prevent foreign criminals from using UK property to launder money.

The register listed 30,931 entries on Thursday – 1,509 short of the 32,440 offshore firms estimated by the government to own property across Britain.

Officials told Reuters some entities could have changed names, not updated land registry records or might no longer exist. But those that fail to register – along with their officers – face civil penalties, criminal prosecution and restrictions on their properties, including sales.

If a penalty is not paid within 28 days, the registrar can also use the courts to place a charge on the property.

Companies House said it was using enhanced powers to share data with other government departments and law enforcement agencies.

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