World News

Gulf royals own more than £1bn of UK property via tax havens | Real estate

Gulf royal families including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar own more than £1 billion worth of British property through offshore jurisdictions such as Jersey and the British Virgin Islands, reports The Guardian.

Some 200 properties, including hotels, London mansions and country estates, belong to several small but super-rich dynasties, according to an analysis of a new public registry that shows who is behind offshore companies that own British property.

Gulf royals who hold assets offshore include Sheikh Mansour, owner of Manchester City football club, members of Saudi Arabia’s ruling Al Saud family and the al-Thani clan that controls Qatar.

The most expensive is the £150 million Surrey estate, which is owned by Sheikh Mansour’s wife, Sheikha Manal bint Mohammed Al Maktoum, according to Land Registry documents.

Sheikh Mansour, who is the Deputy Prime Minister of the UAE, owns 17 other land rights through Jersey, including an apartment in London and land associated with urban development in Manchester.

Hill in Regent's Park, London.
Hill in Regent’s Park, London. Photograph: Andy Hall/The Guardian

The Saudi royal family also owns extensive properties through offshore companies, including The Hill, a lakefront estate built in 1818 in the heart of London’s Regent’s Park.

The property is owned by a Guernsey-based company whose beneficial owners include Abdullah bin Khalid Al Saud, the kingdom’s representative to the United Nations. It was reportedly listed for sale in 2020 for £185m.

Pinto Tower, Nine Elms, London.
Pinto Tower, Nine Elms, London. Photograph: Andy Hall/The Guardian

Another member of the royal family, Turki bin Salman Al Saud, is the king’s ninth son and brother of the country’s de facto ruler, Mohammed bin Salman. Turki Al Saud owns BVI-based Moncrieff Holdings, which owns 18 properties in London, including apartments in Pinto Tower in Nine Elms.

The Qatari royals have also used offshore jurisdictions to spend huge sums on UK property. Sheikh Thani bin Abdullah Al Thani, a member of the dynasty that has ruled Qatar since the 19th century, owns 12 companies on the foreign corporate register, all based in the British Virgin Islands.

The companies own 16 properties, including 160 Great Portland Street in London, a seven-story office building purchased for £127 million in 2018, according to the Land Registry.

The Sheikh’s property empire also includes a £48 million office building on London’s Southwark Street, three £31 million homes in Soho and technology company Sony’s headquarters on Great Marlborough Street.

160 Great Portland Street, London.
160 Great Portland Street, London. Photograph: Graham Turner/The Guardian.

Another clan member, Mohamed Khalifa al-Thani, bought 1 Queen Anne’s Gate, a 27-unit house on the edge of St James’s Park near Buckingham Palace, for £139m in 2019. The project was designed by David Linley, son of the late Princess Margaret.

Previous analysis by the Guardian has shown that Qataris own around £10bn of UK property, including prestigious assets like Shard and Harrods. But a registry of foreign entities shows for the first time how al-Tanis and other members of the Persian Gulf royal family have used offshore jurisdictions to expand their holdings in the UK.

1 Queen Anne's Gate, London.
1 Queen Anne’s Gate, London. Photograph: Andy Hall/The Guardian

In total, members of the ruling families of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Jordan and Bahrain own nearly 200 properties worth at least £1 billion through offshore companies in the British Virgin Islands, Jersey, Guernsey and Panama.

Quick guide

UK for sale: reporting in the register of foreign legal entities


A new UK Government Overseas Registry has been created to improve transparency on UK property ownership and to help authorities ensure that the correct amount of tax is paid. Owning real estate through offshore companies is legal. Owners of property through offshore companies may do so for many reasons, from tax incentives to privacy or liking for the stability or ease of a particular offshore tax regime. Offshore taxation is “challenging”, according to the government.

But the ministers concluded that being transparent about foreign ownership of British property is an important step in improving the way the tax system works. “While the vast majority of people and businesses pay the correct amount of tax, mistakes are made,” the government said, explaining why the registry is being introduced. The foreign entity registry appears to be a big step forward in terms of transparency, with thousands of owners, including those reported by The Guardian, claiming ownership. All persons listed in the register as beneficial owners have complied with their legal obligations to declare their assets. About a quarter of filing companies still do not publicly disclose their property because trusts are only required to provide information about their beneficiaries to the tax authorities.

The Guardian has previously reported on offshore ownership of companies through leaks such as the Paradise Papers and the Pandora Papers, leading governments, including the UK government, to look more closely at international tax affairs and offshore secrecy. The Guardian believes that the disclosure of property in the UK held by foreign and offshore firms of the wealthy, powerful and politically connected increases this process of transparency and allows readers to better understand the power structures that affect their daily lives.

Thanks for your feedback.

The Guardian sheds light on the owners listed on the register, given the public interest in greater transparency regarding UK property ownership. Owning property through offshore companies is legal and some people may have genuine and legitimate privacy or security or business reasons for using them.

The Overseas Registry was opened last year and individuals have until 31 January to declare that they are the beneficial owners of offshore companies that own property in the UK.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button