China Owns Vast Network of UK Real Estate, Offshore Records Revealed | china
The Chinese government owns a vast network of British real estate through secret offshore jurisdictions such as Luxembourg and the Isle of Man, The Guardian could reveal, raising questions about Beijing’s control over links in the UK supply chain.
China’s investment department owns more than 250 properties across the UK through dozens of companies, according to disclosures made as part of a new government register for properties owned through offshore entities. It includes distribution centers vital to the flow of food and goods from many parts of the UK, including the South West and South East of England and the Midlands.
The property is ultimately owned by China Investment Corporation (CIC), which manages the People’s Republic of China’s foreign exchange reserves and is estimated to have assets of more than 970 billion.
Land registry records show that CIC has spent at least $580 million on UK properties, but the true figure could be much higher as some records are incomplete. CIC is known as an investor in UK real estate, but the size and details of its purchases have been kept under wraps so far because it uses a wide range of offshore companies.
A register revealing the details indicates that CIC has focused on distribution warehouses, retail complexes and trading complexes, including some critical to regional infrastructure.
Quick GuideUK for sale: Reporting to the Register of Foreign EntitiesShow
The UK Government’s new Register of Foreign Companies was created to improve transparency about UK property ownership and help authorities pay proper taxes. It is legal to hold property through an offshore company. Property owners through an offshore company may do so for a number of reasons, from tax benefits to privacy, or to liking the stability or simplicity of a particular offshore tax regime. According to the government, offshore taxation is complicated.
But the ministers concluded that transparency about foreign ownership of British property is an important step towards improving the operation of the tax system. The majority of individuals and businesses are paying the right taxes, but mistakes are being made, the government explained, explaining why the register was introduced. The registration of offshore entities is seen as a huge step forward in transparency, with thousands of owners coming forward to declare their properties, including one reported by The Guardian. All persons named as beneficial owners in the register have complied with their legal obligation to declare their possessions. About a quarter of the companies that have reported so far do not publicly disclose their ownership. This is because the trust only needs to provide information about the beneficiaries to the tax authorities.
The Guardian has previously reported on the company’s offshore holdings through leaks such as the Paradise dossier and the Pandora dossier, which have led governments, including the UK government, to apply more scrutiny over international tax matters and offshore secrecy. The Guardian shines a light on UK real estate held by wealthy, politically connected and influential people through foreign and offshore companies, enhancing the transparency process and enabling readers to better understand the power structures that influence everyday life. I believe there is.
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Chinese investment in Britain has been a source of concern and division within the government. While some MPs welcome cash inflows into the UK, others have raised security concerns about China and the role of Chinese companies in strategic assets.
In 2020, the government ordered the removal of telecom operator Huawei from Britain’s 5G mobile phone infrastructure before 2027, a decision Beijing described as unfounded. The government has also been cool with plans to involve China General Nuclear in the construction of a new nuclear power plant by acquiring CGN from a stake in the planned Sizewell C project.
Former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith said he was concerned that many investments were disguised through offshore companies. He compared it to an attempted takeover of British tech company Newport Wafer Fab, which initially seemed like a target for a Dutch company before eventual Chinese ownership was revealed. The government eventually blocked the transaction for security reasons.
Duncan Smith, chair of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, said that sometimes you have to go back a few links to find out who actually owns a company.
As much as it all sounds like an important part of the supply chain, I wonder why they’re doing this if they can buy so many. This means a strategic audit of Chinese financial aggregates within UK key areas including universities, technology and supply chain is required. It was too open to the interests of Chinese companies.
CIC and the Chinese embassy did not respond to requests for comment.
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