Kay Stewart visits recent legislative changes

In response to the latest tragedies Russia has enforced on Ukraine,  Parliament has expediated the passing of legislation that provides the U.K government with wider powers to enforce sanctions against Russian oligarchs. On 15 March 2022, the Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Bill (“The Bill”) received Royal Assent.

One of the primary notions behind The Bill is to establish a register of overseas ownership of land and property in the United Kingdom. Furthermore, The Bill will introduce sanctions and penalties for those avoiding or omitting details from the registrar, the aim seems to be to uncover the true proprietors of vast wealth roaming throughout the country. With much of the country’s fortune being held by overseas shell companies, with a suspected link to Russian oligarchs, the government have decided now is the time to push back on anonymous foreign monopolisers.

The thought behind the register is to uncover money laundering experts and take down senior mob bosses although, a simple register is questionably not powerful enough to do so. Without a backing of investigations and appropriate identity checks in place, it is likely the powerful enigmatic oligarchs shall find a loophole to continue their dealings. Furthermore, the new rules provide six months for overseas companies to adhere however like a chess game, your opponent is always thinking three steps ahead.

The Bill also tackles Unexplained Wealth Orders and provides further support to the National Crime Agency (‘NCA’) with enhancing its asset recovery powers. The Bill also aims to minimise the hefty legal fees the U.K. taxpayer affords each time the NCA attempts to prosecute someone with a suspected illegitimate source of wealth.

The Bill is also looking to call professionals such as lawyers and accountants to a higher standard and to hold them accountable if the ultimate beneficial owner fails to be registered. The additional weight on legal advisors to do their own investigations is undoubtedly going to ruffle some feathers in the legal world.

For further information on this topic or on any other legal area, please contact John Szepietowski or Kay Stewart at Audley Chaucer Solicitors on 01372 303444 or email admin@audleychaucer.com or visit our Linkedin page.

Larissa Bourgi

This information was correct as at April 2022

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