Offshore firms buy into super-luxury London project

80 percent of units in One Hyde Park bought via firms with HQs in British Virgin Islands
One Hyde Park, London, the most expensive real estate project in the world
By Claire Valdini
Tue 27 Nov 2012 12:18 PM

The world’s most expensive real estate development, part-owned by Qatar’s Prime Minister, represents the most blatant case of offshore entity secrecy in Britain, a UK newspaper has claimed.

Nearly 80 percent of the 72 super-luxury apartments in London’s One Hyde Park development have been purchased via anonymous offshore entities, the majority of them registered in the British Virgin Islands, The Guardian reported.

The newspaper’s investigation revealed the previously unknown owners of almost 60 UK homes and offices, who use offshore entities such as the British Virgin Islands to purchase property and take advantage of tax loopholes.

While owning a property via an offshore entity and exploiting tax loopholes is not illegal in Britain, there is growing concern amongst critics that the industry’s system is often left open to abuse due to its lack of transparency.

The investigation claimed that some offshore companies nominate directors that pretend to control the companies with more than 21,500 firms identified as using a group of 28 so-called directors.

Home owners in One Hyde Park purchased apartments ranging in price from £3m-136m (US$4.8-218m) in the name of anonymous offshore entities said the newspaper. While this is not illegal such techniques enables the residents to avoid British capital gains and inheritance tax, it said.

The owner of the most extravagant apartment in the development was revealed as the Ukrainian oligarch Rinat Akhmetov. The businessman paid £136m in 2007 for a pair of penthouse flats to be knocked together via a British Virgin Islands company named Water Property Holdings Ltd.

One Hyde Park, dubbed the world’s most expensive real estate development, has sold £1.7bn worth of property since its launch in January 2011.

The development, which boasts 24-hour room service supplied by the neighbouring Mandarin Oriental hotel and a private cinema, has been particular popular with Asian investors, real estate consultants Knight Frank said last month.

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