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Money laundering is when the proceeds of criminal activities are disguised, or even converted, and realised as legitimate assets. It’s a hot topic at the moment, with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) working hard to crack down on the organised crime in the UK, which currently generates a staggering £24 billion a year. Property professionals make particularly attractive targets for criminals looking to hide their ill-gotten gains, as tracking the source of money in this market is often extremely difficult.
There are a variety of acts, laws and guidance in place to help combat money laundering, such as the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 – which means it is a criminal offence if a party fails to report anything suspicious; the Terrorism Act 2000 – which applies to agents who must report suspicion of any terrorist activities or funding, and of course the Money Laundering Regulations 2007.
The Money Laundering Act 2007 covers three main areas of offence:
1) Tipping off
3) Failing to report
When estate agents and surveying firms enter into a business relationship, or a one-off transaction, where they accept cash of 15,000 Euros or more they must have procedures in place for identifying clients using photographic ID and proof of address, and conducting company checks. Furthermore, the firm must establish internal reporting procedures with a Money Laundering Reporting Office, be registered with HMRC, be able to identify risks and implement controls and measures to mitigate risks, as well as maintain records for 5 years.
Failure to comply with these regulations can result in some hefty punishments, such as a prison sentence of up to 14 years, an unlimited fine for assisting with money laundering and a minimum prison sentence of 5 years, or an unlimited fine for tipping off a person that they are under suspicion or a failure to report money laundering.
This news was brought to you by Morgan Pryce, a specialist tenant acquisition agent with offices in Oxford Circus and the City. Morgan Pryce specialises in search, negotiation and project management and works exclusively for tenants.