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Tax Haven Link To Land Registry Sale

Thursday, May 26, 2016
Sale Of Land Registry Monopoly To Private Equity Firms Linked To Offshore Tax Havens Will Give Rise To Unavoidable And Catastrophic Insider Dealing

It has the potential to be worse than putting Herod in charge of the nation’s maternity units, Dracula in charge of blood banks or Boris in charge of the Diplomatic Service says GMB.

GMB commented on the report in The Times today (26 May 2016), that “All bidders for the Land Registry have links to tax havens.” (See copy in notes to editors).

Rehana Azam, GMB Public Services National Secretary, said “The Land Registry is an incredibly important national archive and database that if thoroughly searched by its new private equity owner gives scope for massive asset stripping and indeed, even potential blackmailing.

It has the potential to be worse than putting Herod in charge of the nation’s maternity units, Dracula in charge of blood banks or Boris in charge of the Diplomatic Service.

The new owners will be in possession of more information on who owns what in Britain than the state itself. It is impossible to frame the law so that the new owners will not be in a position to exploit their insider status.

This ill-advised sale of the Land Registry to companies with links to tax havens gives rise to two classes of people who will be in a position to search the archive – the public, who currently pay £3 to search each title, and the new owners who will be free to search at will. Attaching higher prices will stop much of the valuable investigative research into who owns what in England and Wales.

All natural monopolies like the Land Registry, Water and all other monopoly services should be in public ownership. What this Tory government is doing is an absolute disgrace.”

End

Contact: Rehana Azam on 07841 181656 or GMB press office on 07970 863411 or 07739 182691

Notes to editors

1    Copy of article by Sam O’Neill, The Times, May 26 2016

All bidders for the Land Registry have links to tax havens

Every investment firm considering a bid to run the Land Registry after privatisation has business links to offshore tax havens, it can be revealed.

Two American private equity firms and a Canadian pension fund with business links to tax havens or secretive jurisdictions are believed to be among the venture capital businesses interested in the property ownership database, which collects information on every house sale in England and Wales and is valued at more than £1.2 billion.

All of the potential bidders have business links to tax havens or secretive jurisdictions including the Cayman Islands, Jersey and the US state of Delaware. Some also have significant property interests, which could raise concerns about possible conflicts of interest.

The use of offshore vehicles in the private equity sector is legal and there is no suggestion of any wrongdoing by the potential bidders.

It does raise questions about David Cameron’s commitment at this month’s anti-corruption summit to greater openness about foreign ownership in the British property market.

A Whitehall consultation on privatising the Land Registry closes today amid growing opposition to a sell-off from the competition regulator, lawyers and anti-corruption groups. More than 260,000 people have signed a petition organised by 38 Degrees, a campaign group, opposing the sell-off.

The companies understood to be interested in the privatisation are Omers, the Canadian pension giant, and Advent International and Hellman & Friedman, American private equity firms.

According to research by The Times and 38 Degrees, Advent, H&F and Omers have direct business links with Delaware, which Transparency International, an anti-corruption campaign group, says is characterised by “extreme corporate secrecy”.

Omers would bid through a division that has a linked company in Delaware. Advent has a UK division whose parent company is based in Boston, Massachusetts, but is incorporated in Delaware. One of the officers for H&F’s UK division is listed at Companies House as H&F Europe Holdings, which is registered in Delaware

None of the companies would comment on the Land Registry sale.

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