Offshore Forest Gate

Sunday, 13 September 2015


Meticulous work by Private Eye and friends has tracked down over 100,000 properties in the UK owned by companies based in overseas tax havens - usually for tax avoidance purposes.

This pattern of property ownership is, of course, well-known in such up market areas as Mayfair and Knightsbridge.

More surprisingly, perhaps, the tentacles of the trend are beginning to stretch into Forest Gate.

Using Private Eye's detailed, inter-active map (see here) we have located more than 20 such properties in E7, and provide details of them and their "owners" in the article and photos, below. We would put a conservative estimate of their collective value today of around £20 million.

Readers may be able to offer further details about these properties and the people behind them, about which, we and Private Eye would be delighted to hear.

Below is a list of all local properties registered in overseas tax havens between 2005 and 2014, with, in some cases, details of the purchase price recorded at the time of registration.

The tax advantages gained by foreign registered company ownership include the avoidance of Capital Gains Tax (usually 28%, after allowances) and Stamp Duty (rates varies according to price) on their sale and purchase (though there has been a recent attempt to tighten up on the latter) and the ability to pass the properties on, without incurring Inheritance Tax (40% after allowances), on death.

The sums saved can, of course, be huge, depending on the values of the properties in question.

The fact that the companies owning the properties listed below are registered overseas means that little can be established about their ultimate owners, or beneficiaries. They may be UK citizens who prefer to spend their money on hiring the services of expensive lawyers and accountants to arrange their tax avoidance affairs, than to pay tax, and thus contribute to public services.

They may be genuine foreign nationals, with diverse assets portfolios, or they could be people with dubious records to hide (money launderers, drugs dealers, criminals or kleptocrats).

The British exchequer looses £ billions, annually, by the kind of tax avoidance practiced by many of the foreign companies listed below, and their ilk.  It is unlikely that the present government will do too much to curtail the practices for as long as the Conservative party is recipient of donations from many of the beneficiaries of such schemes.

About half the properties listed are simple domestic houses. Given property inflation, tax savings from foreign registration could exceed £30,000 p.a. per property - as shown in a couple of examples.

There are a second set of properties which are, broadly, obviously commercial.

They constitute a mixed bunch, from a fairly prestigious office block, through some industrial property to some rather strange clusters of land, which could, at some stage, be used for a lucrative residential or commercial development.

The final property, to which we draw attention is a former pub, which has been converted into nine flats, with a supermarket attached.  According to the "owning" company's declaration, that has probably increased in value by about £2,000,000 since registered - saving the owner (depriving public services) of about £500,000 should it be sold, today.

The fate of that former pub is becoming increasingly common these days, and the money to be saved from tax-haven registration of the developments are considerable.


Iconic office building - City Gate

City Gate - Romford Road
The City Gate building (above) on Romford Road (246 - 250) was registered as being owned by BCP City Gate, based in the Isle of Man, on 8 July 2005, with a value of £3,658,840.


Residential property


These are listed in alphabetical order of the names of their streets.


50 - 50d Avenue Road

Five separate properties
 registered here - at
50 - 50d Avenue Road
Five properties, all at this address were registered as being owned by Dominion Ltd, Isle of Man in May and June 2012. They were number 50 (no price recorded), 50a (£192,000), 50b (£158,900), 50c (£204,275) and 50d (£122,650).


45 Chaucer Road

45 Chaucer Road
This house was registered to the ownership of Yaas Investments, in the Isle of Man, in September 2012, with a value of £285,000. This company was also registered as owner of nearby 314 Cann Hall Road, in July 2013, with a value of £800,000.


10 Crosby Road

10 Crosby Road

This terraced house was registered as being owned by Balinara, incorporated in Guernsey, with a value of £247,750, in June 2011.


113 Earlham Grove

113 Earlham Grove
This property was registered as owned by Gibraltar based Northern Trading in August 2004, for a value of £750,000.


27 Knighton Road

27 Knighton Road

This house was registered as owned by Tarleton Investments, based in the British Virgin Islands in April 2005. No details of the purchase price are logged with the Land Registry.


1 - 12 Sycamore Court - Romford Road


1 - 12 Sycamore Court, Romford Road
This is a small 12-unit residential block, which was registered as being owned by Almond Land, in Guernsey. For reasons that are not altogether clear, it was listeded as costing £20,648 - which represents less than 1% of its current value. If it were sold today, the Capital Gains Tax saved would be in excess of £500,000.


23b South Esk Road

23b  South Esk Road

This flat was registered as being owned by Exel Venture in Guernsey in November 2013, with a value of £134,500. It is worth nearer £200,000 today - meaning a potential Capital Gains Tax saving of approximately £25,000.


115 Trumpington Road

115 Trumpington Road
This two-bedroom property has recently been sold for £400,000, after a major refurbishment. It was previously registered, in September 2007, as being owned by Charming Properties, based in Jersey.  A considerable capital gain will have been made - and no tax paid on it.


133 and 137 Upton Lane

133 Upton Lane
137 Upton Lane
These two neighbouring properties have been listed as being owned by British Virgin Islands based compan, DAS Properties. 133 was registered in March 2005, with a value of £165,00 and 137 in 2007, with a value of £250,000.

Commercial and industrial properties



Land

There are three plots of land in and around Romford Road, almost adjacent to the City Gate office block (see above), all owned by a St Vincent and Grenadines company called Loesch.

One is described as "land adjoining 286 Romford Road", and was registered to the company in March 2007.


Land adjoining
286 Romford Road
A second property is described as "land adjoining 8 Nursery Lane". Nursery Lane is a long and uninviting alleyway, just behind Romford Road, off Upton Lane. The land value was registered with a value of £110,000 in 2008.


Land adjoining 8 Nursery Lane
The third piece in that area is 10 Nursery Lane, registered with the company to a value of £75,000 in 2007.


10 Nursery Lane
These three pieces of land will probably be joined up and form the footprint of a significant commercial or residential development at some time in the future. The capital gain from these seemingly valueless chunks of land will, then, be considerable - all tax free, of course.


Restaurant - 99 Green Street


99 Green Street
This Asian restaurant was registered to Cranbrook Properties in the British Virgin Islands in 2012, to a value of £500,000.


Sherrard Works

Two views of Sherrard Works
This is a large, antiquated industrial property, running behind the restaurant, above, with a side entrance into Sherrard Road. It, too, was registered to a British Virgin Islands Company, in 2012 - Sherrard Works Ltd - with a value of £1,500,000.

The footprint of these two properties is very large and could form the basis, planning permission dependent, of a considerable residential development - with a large value and consequential tax-free capital gain.


The big one: 326 - 330 Katherine Road


326 - 330 Katherine Road
This former pub site has been developed into a unit of 9 flats, with a Tesco Local occupying the ground floor.  It is typical of the fate of many former large, corner, Victorian pubs.

It was registered to the ownership of a British Virgin Islands based company in 2013, with a value of £870,000.

The nine flats could now be sold for in the region of £2.5m, and the Tesco's could probably command an annual rent of £30,000.

Not a bad, tax-free, return for those behind the company with its very British sounding name - Irlam Properties Ltd.

The facts relating to the tax-haven ownership of each of the properties highlighted above is indisputable.  Some of the speculation about levels of tax-free capital gains and tax avoidance may be challenged by the overseas owners.  If so, we would be delighted to hear from them, and would welcome the opportunity to set the record straight.  

As it is, in the absence of information about the beneficial owners, it has been difficult to contact them for clarification about their motives and financial benefits.

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