The Government has revealed that half of estate agents advertising properties for sale for £5 million or more last year had not registered for money laundering or had failed to pay their annual fees, in direct contravention of the law.
HM Treasury and the Home Office say action is now ongoing against these businesses, while also criticising agents who are registered for money laundering for not always having sufficient training in place for staff.
“Reports like today will increase focus on our sector and damage trust in agents, that is why it is so important that we are playing our role in stamping out money laundering from the housing market,” says Mark Hayward, Propertymark’s Chief Policy Adviser.
“It is shocking to see that some estate agents, especially in the top end of the market, have failed to register with HMRC on AML.
“This in itself is a criminal offence, and we urge all members to adopt the correct policies and procedures.”
The comments are within the government’s latest assessment of the dangers faced within the UK from money laundering.
Three years ago the property market was assessed as having a medium risk score but has now been raised to high, while both sales and letting agents have now been given medium risk score, having previously been low.
Over the past 12 months estate agents submitted 861 Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs), a 21% increase on the previous year.
“Property purchases remain an attractive method to launder illicit funds due to the large amounts that can be moved and the low levels of transparency of ownership or source of funds,” the latest National Risk Assessment says.
Mark Hayward (pictured) adds: “The publication of the report today fires a warning shot to estate and letting agents that the perceived level of money laundering in the sector risk is rising.”