Britain has vowed to clampdown on the use of ''dirty money'' to buy up expensive properties, promising to expose the owners of anonymous foreign shell companies hiding cash in London's buoyant housing market. Ciara Lee reports
It's one of the most expensive cities in the world with house prices soaring over the past few years. Foreign buyers have snapped up billions of pounds worth of London property, occasionally it seems with laundered or "dirty money". Britain is taking a stand. Prime Minister David Cameron, on a trade visit to Singapore, has promised to clampdown on offshore companies set up solely to hide cash. (SOUNDBITE) (English) BRITISH PRIME MINISTER, DAVID CAMERON, SAYING: "I'm determined that the UK must not become a safe haven for corrupt money from around the world, we need to stop corrupt officials or organised criminals using anonymous shell companies to invest their ill-gotten gains in London property without being tracked down." Around 122 billion pounds of property in England and Wales is owned by offshore companies. A central registry of land and properties owned by foreign firms will be set up in the coming months. Justin Urquhart Stewart is from Seven Investment Management. (SOUNDBITE) (English) HEAD OF CORPORATE DEVELOPMENT, SEVEN INVESTMENT MANAGEMENT, JUSTIN URQUHART STEWART, SAYING: "Frankly it's a bit late. Having said that, people have probably benefited from the fact that house prices have gone up quite so much but it's not healthy that you are attracting laundered dirty money. And this is dirty money, coming from crime, maybe coming from terrorism, so this needs to be dealt with now." But critics argue the rules will be easy to bypass - as criminals can easily buy a property in someone else's name. And it's unrealistic to expect property agents to try and detect sophisticated fraud.