An analysis of filings with Companies House has revealed that 4,000 babies and toddlers under the age of two are listed as beneficial owners of companies in the UK.
The analysis, carried out by Global Witness, also found that five individuals own more than 6,000 companies each.
The revelations are likely to raise concerns about the integrity of the UK’s companies registry, at a time when the ownership of assets in the UK by transnational criminal networks is high on the agenda.
Companies House is on record as saying that “there is no verification of the documents we receive as long as they have been correctly completed.” It also said that filings are accepted “in good faith.”
However, despite the high number of potentially spurious filings identified by the researchers, only one individual has ever been prosecuted for a false filing and that person reportedly only made the filing to illustrate the problem.
Businessman, Kevin Brewer was fined £12,000 in March this year for falsely setting up a company in the name of former Business Secretary, Vince Cable five years ago, apparently with the sole purpose of highlighting the weaknesses in the system.
Companies House told Quartz that it is “an offence to knowingly or recklessly file false or misleading information,” adding “where potentially criminal activities are suspected, we work closely with law enforcement bodies.”