So reads the blue plaque on this pretty Georgian terraced house, home to London’s Sherlock Holmes Museum. In a city of storied buildings, the home of the fictional detective is as famous as they come. The museum is also not the original location of the fictional detective’s fictional house. If you’re facing the museum and peer to the left, you’ll see an Art Deco cluster of flats and offices. This houses the original 221b Baker Street.
In the 21st century, the original location has fallen far off its pedestal as the home of Britain’s most famous gentleman crime-fighter. Instead, it now symbolizes a very modern London trait: the city as a mecca for money stashed away by the elites of corrupt countries.
Valued at more than £130 million ($183 million), the property spanning 215 to 237 Baker Street is held via a web of secretive offshore corporations which hide its owner’s identity. It is notorious among anti-corruption activists: In 2015, then-prime minister David Cameron singled out allegations about the property in a speech in Singapore, insisting, “We need to stop corrupt officials or organised criminals using anonymous shell companies to invest their ill-gotten gains in London property.” Two years later, the government cited the buildings in its 2017-2022 Anti-Corruption Strategy (pdf, p.37).
Anti-corruption organizations have previously investigated the properties, and postulated possible secret owners for them. Now, court documents seen by Quartz and files leaked in the Panama Papers suggest the properties have belonged at least in part to one or more family members of Kazakhstan’s president, Nursultan Nazarbayev.
The impenetrable nature of offshore secrecy makes unravelling who exactly in the Nazarbayev circle owns the buildings a task worthy of Holmes himself. But Quartz’s reporting suggests that, among others, Nazarbayev’s grandson Nurali Aliyev is tied to the property and his daughter, Daria Nazarbayeva, also may be linked. Despite both having spent many years in government jobs, both daughter and grandson have accrued hundreds of millions in private wealth, according to Forbes Kazakhstan.
High-profile cases like Baker Street pose an important test of Britain’s commitment to bring transparency to the ownership and control of companies there. What better place to start than the mysterious original “home” of Sherlock Holmes? Continued at QZ.com