MPs have accused estate agents of being a ‘de-facto’ part of the Russian state in a shocking report published yesterday.
The comments are made within the highly anticipated report into Russian meddling in UK internal affairs by the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament.
Called the Russia Report and headed up originally by Dominic Grieve MP, it accuses the government of taking its eye off the ball over the Russian threat.
But prominent in the committee’s report is the accusation that estate agents are complicit in facilitating the laundering of illicit funds by oligarchs and other wealthy Russian through UK property, particularly in the capital.
“Few, if any, questions have been asked regarding the provenance of their considerable wealth and [the government’s] ‘open door’ approach provided ideal mechanisms by which illicit finance could be recycled through the London ‘laundromat’,” the reports says.
“It is not just the oligarchs either – the arrival of Russian money has resulted in a growth industry of ‘enablers’: lawyers, accountants, and estate agents have all played a role, wittingly or unwittingly, and formed a “buffer” of Westerners who are de facto agents of the Russian state.”
Mark Hayward, Chief Executive, NAEA Propertymark, says: “I unequivocally welcome the government’s commitment to combatting exploitation of the property market and encourage them to ensure the register is as thorough and robust as possible.
“Property is often seen as a gateway to money laundering and it is essential that estate agents are aware of their duty in carrying out the right checks and reporting any suspicious activity.
“Having sat on the Economic Crime Strategic Board, I am pleased to see the government has taken our call for action seriously and am hopeful that today’s statement will encourage greater diligence in the sector, eliminating any unwarranted interference such as that referenced in today’s Russian interference in British politics report.”