Billions of pounds worth of UK property is owned through Guernsey-based companies by some of the wealthiest people in the world.
They include the likes of Nick Candy, the Reuben brothers, Abigail Johnson and the Perrodo family.
Express can reveal the scale of property ownership through the island and some of the names behind those investments after an investigation into the UK’s register of Overseas Entities.
At least £9.1bn worth of property in England and Wales is owned through local structures, anything from walls and advertising hoardings through to hotels, offices, major housing developments, air space and prestigious offices.
The UK register was brought in to increase transparency and help the tax authorities by showing the ultimate owners of British property held offshore.
But the ownership of tens of thousands of the properties still remain secret to the public because of either the use of trusts; the information not being filed; listing of other companies in secretive jurisdictions as the ultimate owners or because there is said to be no beneficial owner.
Guernsey, Jersey, the Isle of Man, the British Virgin Islands and Luxembourg are the jurisdictions of choice for overseas property ownership, accounting for 75% of the companies on the register.
The stability of Guernsey - where some 2,293 entities are based, which compares to 5,251 in Jersey - has been cited by investors as to why they hold properties through companies based here.
The use of offshore companies to buy property is legal and the introduction of the register has been welcomed locally.
Guernsey Finance Chief Executive Rupert Pleasant said:
“Guernsey is fully supportive of any endeavours that strengthen anti-money laundering and the countering of the financing of terrorism measures in the United Kingdom and beyond."
“Guernsey has always played its part in ensuring that the highest standards of compliance and substance are met, and we are confident that Guernsey based corporate service providers will have met their obligations under the Register of Overseas Entities requirements," continued Mr Pleasant (pictured above).
Alderney is home to 10 overseas entities that are on the register.
The most expensive property owned through a company in Guernsey is apartment B.10.01 in One Hyde Park, Knightsbridge.
The leasehold cost £160m. and it was reportedly the most expensive property sold in 2017.
That was brought by PHB London Limited, whose beneficial owner is billionaire property mogul Nick Candy.
One Hyde Park itself was a spectacular project developed, designed and managed by firms controlled by Mr Candy and his brother, Christian.
The Admiralty Arch Hotel, due to open in 2025, is also owned through a company based in Guernsey called Admiralty Arch Hotels Limited - it acquired the leasehold for £141m.
The Reuben Brothers, Simon and David/Reuben, are listed as the beneficial owners.
They took ownership of the luxury hotel project last summer. It will open under the Waldorf Astoria brand in an iconic building which was originally commissioned by King Edward VII in memory of Queen Victoria.
It sits at the end of The Mall opposite Buckingham Palace.
Another notable investor in UK property through a Guernsey-based entity is US billionaire Abigail Johnson.
She is the beneficial owner of Pembroke Lothbury Holdings and Pembroke Lothbury which own a leasehold and freehold respectively at 41 Lothbury, London.
This is marketed as a landmark site adjacent to the Bank of England, providing premium office space within a Grade II listed building.
Since 2014, Johnson has been president and CEO of American investment firm Fidelity Investments and chair of its international former sister company Fidelity International.
An entity called Aelton Limited owns the £85.5m freehold for 7 to 10 Hanover Square, 13 to 17 and 19 Princes Street in Westminster.
Aelton is owned by Francois Perrodo, Bertrand Perrodo, Nathalie Samani and three companies registered in Bermuda: Arosa, Bellerive and Seefeld.
François Perrodo is a French billionaire businessman, racing driver who regularly competes in Le Mans, and car collector.
Bertrand is his younger brother and Nathalie is his sister. She runs the family’s Chateau Labegorce in the Margaux vineyards.
Their family’s wealth stems from the oil company Perenco, which was established by their father Hubert Perrodo in 1975.
He died in a hiking accident in the French Alps in December 2006.
Perenco, which Francois is the chairman of, controls the Wytch Farm facility in Dorset, from which oil leaked into Poole Harbour.
7 to 10 Hanover Square was finished in 2017 and incorporates commercial and residential buildings. 19 Princes Street is a luxury residential development, finished a year later.
Transparency in question
One example where the ultimate owner is still hidden from the public, but will be known by the authorities, because the beneficial owner is listed as a trust company is in the case of Adriatic Land 3 Limited.
It is listed as the owner of Ladymead House in Bath and Liberty House in London, both at a price of nearly £140m. - the third and fourth most expensive on the list.
The beneficial owner of Adriatic Land 3 is a trust company based in Jersey.
Cases are being built against companies that have not complied with the new transparency laws.
Since January, overseas firms which own UK property should have registered who their ultimate owners are.
There are 27,902 entities on the new Register of Overseas Entities, but according to the BBC, about 5,000 have not yet complied.
This means they are automatically banned from registering ownership of any new land by HM Land Registry and are also barred from selling or transferring existing property or land in the UK.
They can be fined up to £2,250 a day.
A spokesperson from Companies House told Express that it "is now assessing cases for enforcement action working in partnership with law enforcement bodies".
It is still receiving and processing applications to the register.
But campaigners do not believe the register goes far enough.
Research from Transparency International found that by the time of the deadline to submit information, almost 52,000 UK properties were still owned anonymously through 18,000 offshore companies.
More than 3,000 firms listed anonymous companies as the beneficial owners while 4,000 were held under trusts.
In these cases, the actual owners are meant to be declared to the authorities, although they will not be named publicly.
About 12% of all the companies claimed they had no beneficial owners.
“Transparency over who really owns property here is vital to addressing Britain’s role as a global hub for dirty money,” said Duncan Holmes, Director of Policy at Transparency International UK.
“While the register is starting to serve its intended purpose, our analysis reveals there are far too many companies that could be trying to skirt the rules, not knowing they exist, or ignoring them altogether. Without action from Parliament to close loopholes in the law and active enforcement from Companies House, this promising reform will fall short of its aim in providing fewer places for corrupt wealth to hide.”
The organisation wants the UK Parliament to change the law so that information on all parties to trusts that control overseas firms holding UK property is published.
They also wanted the professional service providers responsible for submitting obviously non-compliant information reported to anti-money laundering regulators.
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