A quarter of all property owned by overseas companies in England and Wales is held by companies registered in the British Virgin Islands, according to new research.

BBC analysis of Land Registry data on overseas property ownership shows that firms registered in the British Virgin Islands, which has a population of just 30,660, own 23,000 properties in England and Wales - more than any other country.

Behind the British Virgin Islands, Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man were the most common locations for property-holding overseas companies to be registered.

Combined, firms registered in the British Virgin Islands, Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man own two thirds of all properties held by overseas companies in England and Wales.

The government of the British Virgin Islands told the BBC that to label the country as a tax haven was incorrect, arguing there were many practical reasons why UK properties might be owned by companies incorporated there.

The government also said that it shared "necessary information" with the relevant authorities, including ownership details.

The findings will do little to ease fears that the British government is failing to close loopholes by which British tax havens help companies avoid paying property and inheritance taxes.

British Virgin Islands: Trouble in paradise
The British Virgin Islands is the most popular home for overseas companies that own property in England and Wales File pic

London-heavy portfolios

The BBC's analysis of the data, which was made free and publicly available as of November 2017, also found that 44% of all properties owned by overseas companies in England and Wales are in London.

More than 10% (11,500) of properties owned by overseas companies in England and Wales are located in the City of Westminster, and more than 6,000 are in the London borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

The total recorded value of London properties owned by overseas companies is £33.9bn ($47.1bn). The next highest is the south east at £7.2bn ($10bn), and the lowest is in the north east at £0.8bn ($1.1bn).

The BBC notes that fewer than a third of of properties covered by the data included the sale price.

Of the foreign company-owned properties that did disclose a price, former Metropolitan Police HQ New Scotland Yard was the most expensive. It was bought by the Abu Dhabi Financial Group from the Mayor of London's office for £370m ($514.4m) in 2014.

The property has now been demolished in preparation for luxury apartments that will sell for prices ranging from £1.5m ($2.1m) to over £10m ($13.9m).

Until April 2017, non-UK residents holding a residential property via a company meant it was not counted as an asset for inheritance tax purposes. This has now been changed, reducing the appeal of offshore ownership.

That said, places like the British Virgin Islands still offer greater privacy than if property is purchased as an individual, according to the BBC.

New Scotland Yard
The New Scotland Yard property was sold to Abu Dhabi investors for £370m Reuters