Wealthy businessmen hold British property via offshore firms - reports
A Guardian investigation reveals how wealthy businessmen, such as Gulf royals, bought UK property via jurisdictions.
An investigation conducted by The Guardian has revealed that some individuals have declared they own UK property through offshore jurisdictions, such as the BBC chairman Richard Sharp, a series of billionaire businessmen, more than 20 Conservative donors, and Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton.
"The declarations are made on the UK government’s new register of overseas entities, brought in to increase transparency and help the tax authorities by showing the ultimate owners of British property held offshore," the newspaper added, shedding light on how rich businessmen and Gulf royals "have legally bought up billions of pounds of mostly London property, often via jurisdictions such as the British Virgin Islands (BVI) and the Channel Islands."
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Sharp, who is under pressure over a financial service secured by ex-British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, is the beneficial owner of a £4m flat in London held through a Jersey-based trust.
"Mr Sharp is a UK citizen, UK domiciled, and has always been meticulous about always paying the full amount of tax here. The flat in question is Richard’s elderly mother’s home," a spokesperson for Sharp said.
“Like many parents, he has been thinking about how to provide for his children on his death. This arrangement isn’t about a personal tax benefit to him as he pays more UK tax under this arrangement, but about him planning for provision for his children," the spokesperson added.
As for Hamilton, he owns in Kensington a £16.5m property via the BVI. He gained no tax benefits from the arrangement, as per his spokesperson.
The Companies House register listed as of Friday "17,754 overseas entities, with thousands more expected to register before the 31 January deadline."
With 55 percent of all overseas owners declared so far, the register shows that the Gulf states' royal families, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar, "own about £1bn of UK property via tax havens such as Jersey and the BVI."
Billionaire businessman and philanthropist Wafic Saïd, who is credited with helping KSA buy British weapons in 1985 in the biggest arms deal in history, is one of the ultimate owners of a Bermuda company that holds a commercial property in the City of London.
“As with many other foreign investors, my family holds some UK investments through overseas companies. I am assured that is perfectly legal. In any case, I am not resident in the UK and I am not a beneficiary of the trust which holds this property," he said.