Three luxury London homes of foreign politician ‘frozen’
Politicians from various countries own property in London and the UK, mostly purchased through offshore entities. Such individuals are called PEPs (political exposed persons) and are usually not named in investigations.Updated: May 29, 2019 15:40 IST
Three luxury homes in London worth over £80 million belonging to an unidentified foreign politician have been ‘frozen’ under a new anti-corruption and anti-money laundering provision, the National Crime Agency (NCA) said on Wednesday.
Politicians from various countries own property in London and the UK, mostly purchased through offshore entities. Such individuals are called PEPs (political exposed persons) and are usually not named in investigations.
‘Freezing’ of the three homes in prime locations is the NCA’s second such action under the Unexplained Wealth Order (UWO) provision. The first was against two London properties believed to belong to jailed Azerbaijani banker Jahangir Hajiyev and his wife Zamira Hajiyeva, who spent millions of pounds in luxury store Harrods, court documents reveal.
Some individuals under investigation may have entered the UK under the Tier 1 (Investors visa) that has been used by over 75 Indians (including fugitive Nirav Modi) and their dependents since 2009. Anti-corruption campaigners have raised concerns over checks conducted before granting the visa.
The latest action prompted campaign group Transparency International to call for an urgent review of the source of wealth of all foreigners granted the visa, also called the ‘Golden Visa’, which allows individuals to migrate to the UK with at least £2 million.
The group has listed former Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif among foreign nationals who are suspected to have acquired property in the UK that needed to be investigated using UWOs.
The NCA said ‘Interim Freezing Orders’ have been granted which means that the three prime properties cannot be sold, transferred or dissipated while the investigation continues.
Andy Lewis of the NCA said: “This is the second time the NCA has successfully secured UWOs since the new legislation was enacted. They are a powerful tool in being able to investigate illicit finance flowing into the UK and discourage it happening in the first place”.
“The individuals behind these offshore companies now have to explain how the three properties were obtained. The NCA will not shy away from complex and detailed investigations against high profile individuals and professional enablers.”
Graeme Biggar of the National Economic Crime Centre added: “The purchase of prime property in London is a tactic used to launder money and we will use all the powers available to us to target those who try to do this”.
First Published: May 29, 2019 15:40 IST