City of Westminster councillors want to know how wealthy buyers and developers are funding developments in their area – and report them if they’re not convinced everything is above board.
At a recent council meeting councillors said that they are often suspicious about who is behind planning applications for lavish developments in the area, suspecting that some of them are being used for money laundering. A report said that they asked council staff if and how it was possible for them to tip off the authorities in such cases.
Councillor Ian Rowley said he believed Westminster was a target for dirty money from “various ghastly regimes” being “laundered through gold taps and gold toilets.”
He added: “When we put up some vulgar, plutocratic block of flats in the city it’s clearly not for locals – are we asking who it’s coming from?”
Council officials responded that there is no official process for checking the source of money used to fund a planning application. However, they said they would ask the National Crime Agency if and how suspicions could be reported.
Westminster councillors may be well intentioned. However, as it’s unlikely that really accomplished criminals – assuming there are any in Westminster of course – don’t already have their tracks well covered, it’s doubtful what could be achieved by scrutiny of planning applications. Legitimate developers, on the other hand, would certainly find having to justify their taste in sanitaryware frustrating.