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So Just How are Buy to Let Investors reacting to the Increase in Stamp Duty?

buy to let signMost assume that the increase, together with the reduction in tax relief, will be passed to the Landlord’s tenants.

Some investors are setting up corporate structures in which mortgage interest could still be set off against tax; we would advise consulting a specialist tax accountant if you are thinking of doing this.

Allsop, the auctioneers, are reporting that they witnessed the largest turnout to date at one of their more recent property auctions, though they noted that the bids on property  were lower than the past.

Overall, the increase in stamp duty does not appear to have deterred BTL investors.

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A Buoyant Year End for HMRC

HMRC logoHMRC had a buoyant year end in March 2016, as a result of the Stamp Duty increase deadline; a record high in stamp duty receipts was recorded.

A YouGov survey concluded that the majority of public opinion gave overwhelming support to the increase in stamp duty, because they believed that the benefit will be passed to First Time buyers. The outcome remains to be seen.

Things became more difficult for HMRC when in an embarrassing (for them) judgement handed down by the Court of Appeal, it was pointed out to HMRC that they had pursued the wrong party when seeking the payment of £50 million stamp duty due as a result of the sale of the Chelsea Barracks in 2007. It seems that the true owner of the property is the Qatar based bank Masraf al Rayan, though the purchaser was an investment company ultimately owned by the Qatar Investment -Authority. HMRC will appeal, apparently, but we can't help thinking that there wouldn't be many UK based purchasers that could get away without paying Stamp Duty!

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Property Market Awaits the June Brexit Referendum

brexit 1After having successfully survived the frenzied madness of March 2016, during which our property lawyers were overseeing up to 16 completions a day because of a rush to beat the March 31st Stamp Duty Land Tax increase deadline, the property market is now quieter.

Most potential buyers and sellers anxiously await the outcome of the Brexit referendum on June 23rd 2016. Other factors suggest that perhaps we have reached the top of the 12 year increase in property prices and the market, especially in London and the South East, is heading for a correction.

Statistics published in April 2016 show that mortgage lending for the month fell by under 1/3; residential transactions in the country fell below 100,000 as did Stamp Duty receipts, as one would expect.

The National Association of Estate Agents in April saw a marked reduction of new buyers (the lowest since March 2014) together with a sharp drop of properties coming to market .

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Lewis Nedas Law Commercial Department Goes Live!

shaking hands 1Welcome to the Lewis Nedas Law Commercial and Litigation Department Blog. Our goal is to keep you informed about recent legislative changes that may affect you or your business by giving you free, regular, cutting edge updates on this web page. We will also be posting about our recent successes, professional legal opinion, developing case law and other newsworthy items on a frequent basis. We feel that a Blog is a great opportunity to invite our readers and our existing clients to pose us with topics for discussion so that the Blog is as interactive as possible. Please note that for confidentiality reasons we will not be able to give any specific legal advice to you or someone you know on this public forum, but if you do have such a query please do not hesitate to get in touch with one of our commercial lawyers who will be happy to help you.

Our first topic is one that has been raised in several recent company transactions that we have been working on and so we felt we could shed some light on this complex area or encourage you to contact us for further advice.

Company Law Update – People with Significant Control

If you’re a business owner or a company director, you’ve probably heard about the new administrative changes affecting UK companies, SEs and LLPs from 6 April 2016. The most significant of these is almost certainly the requirement to keep a “Register of People with Significant Control” (and not forgetting the obligation to file a “Confirmation Statement” once a year, which replaces the obligation to file an “Annual Return” as of next month). If you do have the unenviable task of dealing with such matters yourself, you will no doubt have noticed that there is ample (and by that I mean no less than seven handbooks and hundreds of pages!) guidance on the government’s website to steer you through this complicated area of company law, and a quick Google search of the letters “PSC” reveals a multitude of websites, from laypeople to lawyers, offering fairly comprehensive advice. As such, it is not the purpose of this blog to recite this guidance chapter and verse, or to condense it into a handy how-to guide when so much information is readily available.

No, the purpose of this blog is to inform our readers that, as is the case ninety-nine per cent of the time when a new law is implemented, some confusion and some moderate debate is taking place in commercial circles as to how the rules should be interpreted. For instance, the government has published new guidance as recently as 13 May 2016 (see to help business owners through this legal minefield and we have also been reading other blog posts from law firms on websites such as Lexology which are potentially very confusing to a lay person. Given that the sanctions for non-compliance will be of a criminal nature (as are the sanctions for failure to keep most company information up to date), we understand (and indeed we have experienced) that many people will see this as an administrative headache that distracts them from focussing on their aspirations of running a successful business. The types of queries we hear regularly are:

  •  What is a PSC Register?
  •  How do I identify a person with significant control?
  •  How and to what extent should I contact these people?
  •  What information must I enter on to the Register?
  •  How and when do I need to enter information on to the central public register at Companies House?
  •  How often must I review the information contained on the Register?
  •  Where must the Register be kept and for how long?
  •  What restrictions can be imposed on people who refuse to respond to requests for PSC information?
  •  Where can I find further guidance on this subject and are there any updates available?

As you can see, this is an extensive list of questions that we have already had from our existing clients and we are sure there will be more on this topic until such time as the new legislation has had time to bed in.

If you are at all concerned about the new legislation and whether it affects your business, or if you would like to speak to our team about your corporate and commercial needs generally, please contact us by emailing our enquiries line and we guarantee someone will come back to you within 24 hours.

Adam Creasey

Lewis Nedas Law

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NCA Uncovers Drug Smuggling and Gun-Running Group Disguised as Flower Seller

The National Crime Agency assisted by the Dutch National Crime Squad, has dismantled an organized crime group which used a wholesale flower business to disguise their criminal activity.

The Lancashire based group used the flower business as a cover to hide their illegal drug and gun-running activities. The North-West network smuggled heroin, cocaine, amphetamine and cannabis as well as firearms and ammunition from continental Europe through the Channel ports and into the UK to their depot in Accrington, where they sold to drug dealers to be distributed throughout the UK.

The group was headed by Dutch National, Mohammed Imran Bhegani, who was sentenced to sentenced to 36 years in prison. His right hand, Sajid Osman, was given a prison sentence of 26 years. The lorry driver, Pieter Martens, was jailed for 24 years for his role in importing the goods.

Other co-conspirators were given sentences ranging from 27 moths to 17 years.

Seizures of Drugs and Firearms in 2014

The men were charged in relation to four separate seizures made in 2014. Three of these seizures were made at the Channel Tunnel terminal in Coquelles, northern France, and the other at the depot in Accrington. It is estimated that the drugs recovered by the NCA would have had a street value of up to £30 million.

During the first seizure in March 2014, Border Force officers discovered two firearms, a pistol and a submachine gun with a silencer and laser sight. The officers also found 28 rounds of ammunition, over 600 kilos of cannabis, one kilo of MDMA, 60 kilos of amphetamine, 50 litres of liquid amphetamine and six kilos of cocaine.

Less than two weeks following the first seizure, a second seizure was made involving a lorry at the Channel Tunnel, which contained nearly a tonne of cannabis, heroin, amphetamine and cocaine. However, the Dutch driver was cleared of the importation offences he was charged with.

Some months later on July 1, 2014, a truck was stopped at Coquelles containing30 kilos of heroin and 45 kilos of MDMA. The driver Nigel Watson from Telford was arrested.

International Cooperation

The NCA worked with its colleagues from the Netherlands to link all of the importations to the group leaders Mohammed Imran Bhegani and Sajid Osman. The agencies discovered that the men had been responsible for an additional 13 runs from continental Europe to the UK.

Greg McKenna, NCA head of investigations said:

“As this criminal network was an international one, so too was our investigation, and we have received invaluable assistance from our colleagues in the Dutch National Crime Squad and from Border Force here in the UK.”

Bhegani had been responsible for arranging the delivery of the consignments to the depot in delivered Albion Mill, Accrington. The property was rented and operated by Osman and Nizami Esshak.

The depot in Accrington was raided by NCA officers on 26 August 2014, where Osman and Essack were arrested. Two of their associates posing as ‘cistomers’, Taimur Zahid and Hussain Farooq, were also arrested when arriving at the premises to pick up drugs for sale. When raiding the premises, the NCA officers found three boxes containing flowers (part of their cover), alongside 12 kilos of cannabis in a car. Officers also seized over 200 kilos of cannabis from Albion Mill, along with notebooks evidencing their crimes which contained the details of customers and quantities to be supplied. A van outside contained a further 80 kilos of cannabis.

Bhegani was subsequently arrested at Esshak’s home in Accrington nearby the depot. The Dutch crime squad officers then raided properties that were linked to Bhegani in the Netherlands. There they discovered phones and SIM card that had been used to contact those involved in the group as contacts and drivers. They also found documents detailing their price lists and transfers of large amounts of cash. The lorry driver, Benny Planken, from the Netherlands was later arrested after being identified as the person responsible for importing cannabis discovered in Albion Mill.

All of the men were charged with offences related to importation, with. Esshak, Zahid and Farooq all pleaded guilty prior to trial. However, Bhegani, Osman, Watson and Planken were found guilty of conspiring to import drug following a jury trial Preston Crown Court on 22 February 2016.

Bhegani and Osman were also convicted of offences related to importing firearms. The men were sentenced at the same court last week, 10 March 2016.

Greg McKenna, head of investigations at the NCA said:

“In terms of organised crime, Mohammed Imran Bhegani was right at the top of the tree. He was an international drug dealer with high-level contacts in mainland Europe. Bhegani had the ability to transport vast quantities of illegal drugs and weapons from the continent and into the UK.”

This echos the recent speech made by Ms Owens, the new head of the NCA, who has made clear that the organization now intends to target the ‘untouchable’ highest level of criminals in the UK, who have international contacts.

McKenna elaborated:

“Working together we are determined to disrupt and bring to justice organised criminal groups involved in this type of smuggling.”

This appears to be the beginning of a new era for the NCA as the organization becomes more sophisticated and works together with its international partners.

How can Lewis Nedas help?

Lewis Nedas are a leading city firm with an enviable reputation for providing effective legal advice to complicated situations. Our team have experience of some of the most complicated cases concerning NCA investigations, allowing us to give our clients access to tenacious and highly knowledgable legal advisors. We have been actively involved in this field for many years, and take pride in offering our clients a comprehensive service: we will represent your interested in all discussions with regulatory bodies that are required; provide legal advice that is specific to your circumstances and interests; and, if the need should arise, protect your interests in any litigation. Contact our team now to find out how we can help you.

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