BRITAIN has been branded a soft touch for gangsters and tax evaders after it emerged just six civil servants are responsible for policing the filings of nearly four million firms.

The UK has come under intense scrutiny in recent years amid concerns that London - and its financial and property markets - has become an engine room for global money-laundering.

Tax transparency and anti-corruption campaigners increasingly fear that lax controls over the paperwork filed by British firms means criminals can hide in plain sight.

Read more: David Leask on why Scotland's law firms should have nothing to fear from reform of the nation's tax haven firms

New figures obtained by the Scottish Nationalist MP Roger Mullin reveal that Companies House, the body which keeps the register of more than 3.75m firms, has just six staff checking for breaches in filings, such as fake addresses and directors or false accounts.

In a series of parliamentary answers to Mr Mullin, the UK Government also admitted that none of the many thousands of foreign directors at British companies had been disqualified for having criminal convictions and that no fines had been issued for making false statements since January 2015.

Mr Mullin said: “These answers to my questions are both revealing and astonishing. They demonstrate the UK government is either asleep on the job, or unconcerned about effective policing of legal requirements regarding company registrations.

“Little wonder then that there has been such easy abuse from tax dodgers to international criminals. I am going to be pursuing this in committee and the floor of the house in the coming week.

“That Companies House is lacking in staff and expertise to properly police matters is a matter requiring urgent attention.”

Read more: David Leask on why Scotland's law firms should have nothing to fear from reform of the nation's tax haven firms

In answers to parliamentary questions from Mr Mullin, UK Business Minister Margot James also revealed that there had been no sanctions under 2015 legislation designed to ensure all business names were properly displayed at their official address. The Herald has visited several mail drops - offices or homes which act as the formal addresses for firms which may have no physical presence in Scotland.

Some Scottish maildrops have thousands of companies registered, including Scottish limited partnerships, the once rare entities whose owners pay no taxes, file no accounts and remain secret. None of the “mail drops” we have visited have ever had any names displayed, such as a traditional “brass plate”.

The Herald has also reported on scores of Scottish limited partnerships involved in criminality, including their ultimate owners being named in foreign courts, with no sanctions made against them by Companies House.

We have also found limited partnerships whose partners - usually companies in tax havens like Belize - have false addresses.

Companies House is far more transparent than many similar organisations around the world and allows open access to its filings. Its workers do not pretend that they can check submissions from all the corporate entities which making filings. However, the body insisted it does follow up on complaints from the public.

A spokeswoman said: “Companies House has amongst the highest rates of compliance with company filing requirements in the world.

“We follow up on all complaints that company information is incorrect or incomplete and in the vast majority of cases, where there appears to be a breach of the Companies Act, companies correct their information straight away.”

Read more: David Leask on why Scotland's law firms should have nothing to fear from reform of the nation's tax haven firms

The Herald asked Ms James’ department for a comment on whether enough resources were being given to Companies House to police its filings. A spokesman referred questions to Companies House itself.

Scottish lawyers, who have asked not to be named, stress that they do check details of new companies which they fil to Companies House. Small business owners rely on the register’s public information for accurate information about potential partners.

Colin Borland, head of devolved nations at the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “Firms looking to do work with other operators should be able to use Companies House to research other businesses and their directors before entering into contracts. If information held by Companies House is inaccurate or out of date, that will cause problems for Scottish businesses.

“With millions of companies registered, we don’t underestimate the challenge of keeping data up to date. However compliant businesses will be frustrated if they learn that there’s little sanction for those who don’t update their details.”