David Cameron might have been a disaster when it came to Brexit, but he did absolutely the right thing with the Unexplained Wealth Order. This is a government programme to uncover the crooks and thieves who use London to cover up corruption and theft in their home countries and to relieve them of dubious investments, often property, they have bought in the UK.
The idea is to increase transparency, opening up Companies House for free searches, forcing companies to declare their real owners, and convening a corruption summit. HM Revenue and Customs, the National Crime Agency and the Serious Fraud Office identify people whose lifestyle looks out of proportion to their income. Property has to be worth £50,000 or more.
Once an Unexplained Wealth Order is issued the property owner has to show that his or her assets are clean. If they fail to reply or their answer is unacceptable, .the property is confiscated. The objective is to have 20 UWO’s a year, enough to frighten the crooks. If the latter realise that their assets are no longer safe they will move on. Of course you will have the situation where assets are nominally held by a Cook Islands Trust or a Panamanian shell company, and no one knows how judges will deal with these cases.
Nonetheless, the UWO is wildly popular. Foreigners with hot money have forced up the value of homes, parking places and restaurant bills, in and around London, and most Brits can no longer afford to live there.
My personal comment: What the UWO failed to achieve has been practically finished off by covid. Huge numbers of shops, for instance, have closed, theatres and concert halls are struggling. London is busy, but the sounds of foreign languages on the streets are noticeably fewer. Is this because of the UWO, covid or Brexit? Or all of them together in a perfect storm? Well……..yes!