Estate agents can expect greater scrutiny of their anti-money laundering procedures after Boris Johns revealed he is to pump more money into the National Crime Agency (NCA).
The new funding, which is part of the Prime Minister’s desire to clamp down on crime including fraud, will ‘strengthen’ the NCA.
One of its key roles is to combat fraud and money laundering through the property market.
In a recent blog on its site, the NCA said: “Accounting and legal professionals, and estate agents, can be criminally exploited – this is sometimes complicit, sometimes negligent, and sometimes unwitting – and this small minority of people can pose a very significant threat”.
Johnson also said “the threat posed by fraud to our economy and the public is one we are determined to address, working with the public and industry to prevent the crime and by disrupting, pursuing and bringing to justice the most harmful.
“The NCA will be strengthened through the recruitment of additional officers.”
As part of their anti-money laundering duties, estate agents must report Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) to the NCA, although in reality very few do; most SARs come from banks and levels of agent-reported SARs have been falling.
Nevertheless, the agency has bagged several high-profile confiscation orders against properties it believed had been acquired with ‘dirty cash’. And last year it gave the property sector a ‘high-risk’ score as part of the government’s national risk assessment of money laundering and terrorist financing, with estate agency businesses’ risk score increasing from ‘low’ to ‘medium’.