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Crackdown on Abuse of UK Businesses
03 May 2018
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Crackdown on Abuse of UK Businesses

Reforms are being considered that will ensure that Scottish Limited Partnerships continue to be used as a legitimate vehicle for investment in the UK.

Measures to crack down on the abuse of a specialised financial arrangement to launder foreign money through the UK was unveiled at the end of April 2018. This is part of a package of government reforms.

Scottish Limited Partnerships (SLPs) and Limited Partnerships (LPs) are used by thousands of legitimate British businesses, particularly the private equity and pensions industry, to invest more than £30 billion a year in the UK. SLPs and LPs are business entities created by two or more partners where at least one partner is liable for what they invest.

However, evidence published shows the growing evidence that SLPs have been exploited in complex money laundering schemes, including one which involved using over 100 SLPs to move up to $80 billion out of Russia. They have also been linked to international criminal networks in Eastern Europe and other locations and have allegedly been used in arms deals.

Figures published, as part of the launch of the government consultation on this issue, show that just 5 frontmen were responsible for over half of 6,800 SLPs registered between January 2016 and mid-May 2017. By June 2017, 17,000 SLPs, over half of all SLPs, were registered at just 10 addresses.

New proposals would make it clearer who runs limited partnerships to enable British investors to continue to use them legitimately and invest in the UK, while cracking down on their use in unlawful activities. These include:

  • Requiring a real connection to the UK, including ensuring SLPs do business or maintain a service address in Scotland.
  • Registering new SLPs through a company formation agent, this will ensure that frontmen will be subjected to anti-money laundering checks.
  • New powers for Companies House to remove limited partnerships from the company register if they are dissolved or are no longer operating.

The reforms being proposed will apply to all limited partnerships in the UK and will also include new annual reporting requirements for limited partnerships in England and Wales and Northern Ireland, all of which will help Companies House ensure they comply with the law.

Last year, the government introduced laws requiring SLPs to report their beneficial owner and make their ownership structure more transparent, this resulted in an 80% reduction in the number of SLPs registered. Recent, additional reforms seek to raise standards further.