The National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA) has condemned the estate agents exposed in a Channel 4 documentary last week for offering to help foreign criminals launder money through high-end properties in London.
Five London based estate agents were named by the Russian anti-corruption campaigner, Roman Borisovich, and Ukrainian investigative reporter, Natalia Sedletskan, posing as Boris and his girlfriend. The couple viewed five properties in the capital where agents stood to earn in the region of a reported £65,000 to £315,000 in commissions.
Mark Hayward, Managing Director of National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA), said that the exposed agents had tarnished the reputation of the industry in the public eye and has now launched an investigation into the issue.
Hayward (left) said, “We do not condone the behaviour of the agents in the documentary From Russia With Cash and it is regretful that a small number of negligent agents tarnish the reputation of the industry as a whole. All agents should know that they have a responsibility to report any potential money laundering activities to the National Crime Agency and failure to do so, or to enable such an action, is a criminal act.
“We take a dim view of members thinking they are above the law. Our members agree to comply with professional standards and we operate a range of sanctions to any breach of those standards. In the case of Anti-Money Laundering, members would face a disciplinary process which could involve expulsion and a fine of up to five million euros. As a consequence of this documentary we will be carrying out our own investigation and, if needs be, we will not refrain from taking the strongest appropriate action possible.”
The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has also said that it will be launching its own investigation into the exposures, vowing to take disciplinary action if any RICS-regulated agency is found to have been involved with any dubious transactions.
Luay Al-Khatib, Director of Regulation in the UK and Ireland at RICS commented, “All estate agents have a legal duty to report any suspicions of transactions which they believe could involve fraudulent money laundering. Above and beyond these general legal requirements, RICS members and our regulated firms commit to the highest professional and ethical standards as a condition of membership.”
It is not yet clear how RICS or the NAEA will carry out their investigations. But allAgents is calling for the investigations into the reported breaches of money laundering regulations to be carried out ‘swiftly and robustly’ in a bid to win the trust of the public and protect the reputation of the property industry.
Michelle Hodge, spokesperson for allAgents, insisted that for peace of mind, all landlords should do their research thoroughly before selecting an agent.
She commented, “The power of the consumer on independent review websites, such as allAgents.co.uk, is invaluable for us to learn from other people’s experiences and to identify these rogue agents. allAgents.co.uk has the added advantage of capturing details of the industry bodies that every agent should be a member of, meaning a rounded view of each agent can be formed from their reviews and their company information.”