London mayor calls for seizure of luxury homes owned by Putin cronies in capital

Properties with combined value of more than £1bn could be targeted in bid to end ‘Londongrad’ status

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
Friday 25 February 2022 12:01
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Related video: Boris Johnson announces new sanctions on Russia

London mayor Sadiq Khan has called for the seizure of homes in the capital owned by cronies of Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Mr Khan said the move could involve 100 luxury properties with a combined value of £1.1bn, in what would be a dramatic extension of sanctions over the invasion of Ukraine.

The mayor said it should be backed up by a new tax on overseas buyers which could raised £370m a year for affordable housing and stop London being used as a playground for international oligarchs.

“For far too long ministers have turned a blind eye to the use of our capital’s homes as a safe harbour for oligarchs to park their cash, which is having a negative impact on both our international reputation and our local housing market,” said Mr Khan.

“Now is the time to act.

“London will always be open to foreign investment and the millions of people from around the world who choose to make our city home.

“But we must take proactive measures to insist on a greater contribution from overseas buyers, clamp down on those who look to exploit our openness, and use the money to invest in social and other low-cost homes for Londoners.”

Anti-corruption pressure group Transparency International estimates that £1.1bn-worth of London property is owned by Russians accused of corruption or links to the Kremlin.

Russian forces’ movements since the invasion began

The UK’s light-touch property regulations mean London has become a magnet for foreign millionaires and billionaires wishing to hide their assets.

The government’s proposed Economic Crimes Bill includes measures to crack down on foreign plutocrats’ use of London to launder ill-gotten gains. Boris Johnson on Thursday announced that elements of the bill will be brought before MPs by Easter after complaints that he was dragging his feet.

It is feared that a lack of transparency in the legal and beneficial ownership of companies and properties could be aiding offences such as tax evasion and money laundering, as well as hiding the assets of those who would come under any possible sanctions regime.

Mr Khan called for the creation of a register of overseas ownership.

We need further financial restrictions against Russia, says Keir Starmer

And he said capital gains tax on overseas buyers should be lifted from 28 to 40 per cent, alongside an increase in the council tax “empty homes premium and a hike in the annual tax on enveloped dwellings, paid by overseas companies investing in property.

City Hall believes these measures could raise £370m to build 2,500 new council and genuinely affordable homes each year.

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