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Burch reassures wealthy foreigners over 'fronting' seizure

National Security Minister David Burch reassured wealthy foreigners they are welcome in Bermuda despite a crackdown on expatriates who acquire property illegally.Last week Government took possession of a Southampton home, ‘Laughing Waters', having discovered it had been illegally purchased using a Bermudian “front”.The former owners of the $1.5 million home will now pay Government a $10,000 deposit plus $4,500 a month to live there.Senator Burch has declined to name the expatriates involved or the Bermudian law firm that illegally acted as trustee in the purchase.The law firm has not been fined or penalised for its role in the illegal front. Government is to prosecute people in the New Year for participating in fronting.Yesterday Sen Burch insisted the move was not designed to detract foreigners from the Island.He pointed out that Government recently passed legislation allowing foreigners to purchase cottages from Tucker's Point hotel. And he said that other hotels will soon be able to sell fractional units to foreigners as well.Opposition members have criticised the policies.Sen Burch said: “I am well aware of what some see as a conflict between this amendment to the Bermuda Immigration and Protection Act [to ban fronting] and the recent amendments in relation to residential units in tourism developments. There is no conflict .“This Government welcomes those purchasers of high-end properties that have traditionally been available to non-Bermudians.“In tourism developments, and in properties generally, Bermuda remains an attractive prospect. It is an important aspect of our economy to have high-net-worth individuals feel welcome and at ease in Bermuda.“That outlook has not changed but with that interest in Bermuda must come a healthy respect for our laws and an appreciation for the aspirations of everyday, working people and the cultural goal of home ownership.”Sen Burch said the anti-fronting law was created to ensure Bermudians have a chance to buy land.“Bermudian first-time homeowners should not be forced to compete with other residents or potentially resident groups for the goal of home ownership,” he said.