Thursday, 3 September 2015

Anonymous landowners

I thought the difficulty of identifying the final owner, operating behind foreign-registered shell companies, of property in the UK was associated only with the big cities and large country estates. However, thanks to the interactive online map provided by Private Eye magazine yesterday, it seems that Neath Port Talbot is also affected.

We already knew about the scandal of the open-cast restitution money which vanished into the British Virgin Islands (Land Registry titles no. CYM503759 CYM521522 & WA303502), relating to land mostly outside the county borough. Within the borough boundaries, it should not have been a surprise that St Modwen, the company developing Llandarcy Village among many other former industrial sites, had availed itself of an offshore holding company.

A name that did strike me as new was Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd. Unfortunately, Companies House in Gibraltar is not as open as our own in providing any details from its register, so I cannot be certain of the purpose of this company. There are clues. One is that the company appears to own the land on which a nearby care home sits. (Clwydi Gwyn was one of those bought out of the Southern Cross crash.) Other properties are sets of houses on modern estates like Bay View Gardens, Cwrt Herbert and developments in Llansamlet, over the border in Swansea. (I have not checked for wider ownership.) So Link is presumably an old-fashioned landlord of mostly residential property, with added secret identity. Surely Link's tenants have a right to put a face to the name?

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