EXCLUSIVE: China Sold Off Millions in Land and Property Ahead of UK’s Register of Foreign Entities

EXCLUSIVE: China Sold Off Millions in Land and Property Ahead of UK’s Register of Foreign Entities
The China Investment Corporation logo in an illustrated image, taken on June 7, 2023. (David Tompkins/The Epoch Times)
Patricia Devlin

The Chinese regime disposed of millions of pounds worth of lucrative UK land and property months before a public register of foreign owners came into force.

Beijing’s main sovereign fund—China Investment Corporation (CIC)—sold off over 60 pieces of land, warehouses, and property across England last year ahead of the release of Britain’s first register of overseas entities.

Recently released Land Registry documents show how the regime’s investment division, under the name of an off-shore Luxembourg company, used a government grace period to sell off huge swathes of land across before having to declare its assets under the new Economic Crime Act.

Despite disposing of some of its multi-million-pound portfolio, Companies House filings show that CIC still owns a huge chunk of Britain’s distribution network.

Experts say the move by China—which saw 63 pieces of land and property sold within 10 months—could signal that it no longer sees property in Britain as “safe money.”

The register—which previously revealed how Beijing’s financial arm had bought up properties in London’s financial district—was brought into force in February to prevent Russian oligarchs and others from laundering money through property investments.

Previous ownership of some of Britain’s most expensive property purchases was hidden in opaque corporate ownership structures.

However, the new register of over 32,000 foreign entities now aims to show who the real owners behind big buys in Britain are.

£20 Million Investment

Documents released this month by Companies House reveal how CIC has been using an off-shore company based in Luxembourg to buy up distribution depots, warehouses, industrial parks, and trading estates across the north and south of England.

Redwood (Light Industrial) Propco S.A.R.L, was registered on the new overseas entity list in December 2022.

By that stage, it had already sold off 63 pieces of land and property including a £3.3 million building on the outskirts of London and nine retail units in one of Redditch’s biggest industrial estates.

Official registration documents for the firm—whose British address is listed as a solicitors firm in Ilford—show that its sole beneficial owner is CIC, which manages the foreign exchange reserves of the People’s Republic of China.

On June 3, the Register of Overseas Entities (ROE) released its most recently filed entities information, which included Redwood.

It revealed that the Chinese-regime-controlled off-shore company owns almost 200 pieces of land and property across England.

Most are industrial parks and trading centres, including a £7,980,000 leasehold in Croydon’s Imperial Way.

The company’s biggest investment, according to the Land Registry documents, is £20,495,000 in 12 units in Dagenham’s prosperous Sterling Industrial Estate,

However, most of Redwood’s investments appear to be in the north of England, where it owns an £11,960,000 enterprise park in Crewe, Wigan.

In Warrington, China owns outright, a series of industrial units to the tune of £4.7 million.

In Wigan, it leases the well-known Haslemere Industrial Estate for £5.2 million.
  • In nearby Bolton, Beijing owns land and buildings to the value of £2.1 million, while down south it owns—outright—eight industrial units in Swindon’s Hawksworth Trading Estate.

‘Pulling in Their Horns’

Since company ownership has been brought to light in the UK’s ROE, it has revealed the great extent that the Chinese regime has ploughed millions into commercial and residential properties in the UK.

Chinese investment in the UK has been a source of concern and division within the government, with some welcoming the cash flow, while others have raised security concerns.

Previously campaigners, who told The Epoch Times the property information was “concerning,” have called on politicians to act on the growing influence of the Chinese regime on Britain’s shores.

Asked about the recent UK property and land disposal and investment by China in the UK, Andrew Collier—a longtime scholar and writer on Chinese issues—said China most likely decided to cut its losses under Britain’s new economic spotlight.

The managing director at Orient Capital Research told The Epoch Times: “Basically they were loading up on alternative assets because it felt that it was safe money.

“And now with the UK and its new register, they may feel that is not the case.

“The second theory, which I feel is more likely, is that all the senior banks and the fund—and you can look at CIC’s financials although I don’t know how transparent they are—they’re pulling in their horns because they’ve overextended themselves through lots of BRI loans and investments.”

Collier said an important question to ask is, “Does the fund need the money for other purposes?”

”China right now is over lent throughout the system, so they would be interested in probably monetizing their assets.

“The second thing is the strategic value of land in the UK is probably minimal.”

Speaking in February to The Epoch Times, Benedict Rogers, co-founder and chief executive of Hong Kong Watch, said the British government needs to take the same actions against Chinese officials and entities over UK property investment as it did against those from Russia.

“I think it’s very concerning, although not that surprising because I think China has been using financial influence, economic coercion, and other ways to infiltrate the UK—and different sectors and institutions in the UK—for some time,” Rogers said.

Patricia is an award winning journalist based in Ireland. She specializes in investigations and giving victims of crime, abuse, and corruption a voice.
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