The route set out on a Monopoly board-style map of London’s newest coach tour included the opulence of the capital’s largest private home and the luxury of its most expensive apartment.
While tourists in Los Angeles gawp at the homes of Hollywood stars, the inaugural “Kleptocracy Tour” of London yesterday visited properties associated with the corrupt regimes in Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan. The tour aims to highlight what campaigners regard as “dirty money” from the former Soviet Union being channelled into London’s market for luxury properties.
It began close to parliament, where Vladimir Ashurkov, the executive director of the Russian Anti-Corruption Foundation, the first guide, pointed out an £11.4 million apartment overlooking the Thames. The property is said to be owned by a powerful official in the Russian government. Its purchase price was 80 times his annual salary.
Ben Judah, the author of This is London, took over as guide and described the “looting machine” of British lawyers, bankers and public relations businesses that have created a shadow financial system in London used to transfer the money to the West.
The next property, a mews house in Knightsbridge, cost £3.3 million in 2006. It was bought through a Cypriot company and is believed to be owned by Roman Rotenberg. Boris Rotenberg, his father, and Arkady Rotenberg, his uncle, are two of Russia’s richest men and all are subject to US economic sanctions against Putin’s regime.
There was nowhere for the coach to stop outside the block containing a penthouse overlooking Hyde Park. Rinat Akhmetov, a Ukrainian, is believed to have paid £136 million for it. He has denied media allegations of improper business practices.
The Kensington home and disused Brompton Road Tube station that cost Dmitry Firtash, a Ukrainian billionaire, more than £110 million was pointed out. Mr Firtash made his fortune supplying Russian gas to Ukraine. He now lives in Austria while fighting extradition to the US on bribery charges. Building work obscured the view of Witanhurst, a mansion on the slopes of Highgate in north London.
The property was bought in 2008 by a British Virgin Islands company on behalf of the family trust of Andrey Guryev. It was not declared on his foreign interests while he was a member of the Russian parliament. It is estimated that when refurbished it will be the second largest home in London after Buckingham Palace.
Offshore companies own £122 billion of property in England and Wales.
David Cameron announced plans last summer to tackle foreigners investing “dirty money” in London property using anonymous offshore companies. No more details have been announced.