Oligarchs and officials from corrupt states own £2bn of UK luxury property

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Buying luxury properties in and around London is one of the ways elites safely bank capital that has been questionably obtained, said the report, which was financed by an aid fund run by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. The investments also provide them with future sources of income in case they were to lose favour with kleptocratic regimes.

Among the elites that have purchased property in the UK are the family of Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev, who has been accused of human rights abuses and corruption.

The Aliyevs and Pashayevs, the latter of whom the president is related to through his wife, have bought 14 properties, the majority of them in Knightsbridge, through British Virgin Island companies since 1998.

In 2017, four offshore-managed UK companies were used in a complex €2.5bn money-laundering scheme, known as the Azerbaijani laundromat, which bribed prominent European politicians to deflect criticism of Aliyev. The source of the money is unclear, but almost half is alleged to have come from a mysterious shell company linked to the Aliyevs.

Earlier this year, the Pandora Papers revealed some £400m worth of property is held by the Aliyev family in the UK. Aliyev called the revelations the work of “some forces in the West” and “insinuations or half-truths in order to discredit the image of Azerbaijan and undermine Azerbaijan’s position”.

Also among the buyers mentioned in the report is Lubov Chernukhin, the Tories’ biggest female donor, who purchased a £100m property in Regent’s Park this year.

Chernukhin, a former banker, is the wife of Vladimir Chernukhin, who served as Russia’s deputy finance minister under Vladimir Putin between 2000 and 2002. She has donated £2.1m to the Conservative Party, including £160,000 to play tennis with then London Mayor Boris Johnson in 2014.

Speaking to the BBC, lawyers for the Chernukhin family previously stated that none of their political donations “have been funded by improper means or affected by the influence of anyone else.” There is no suggestion their UK property was bought with improper means.

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