One of five estate agents identified in a TV documentary has denied any wrong-doing and has specifically denied any involvement in money laundering offences.
The agents named in the Channel 4 programme, From Russia With Cash, were Winkworth, Marsh & Parsons, Domus Nova, Chard and Bective Leslie Marsh.
The show followed a ‘politician’ - supposed to be a Russian government minister - to see how agents reacted to a plan to use millions of pounds of stolen money to purchase high end property in the capital.
In the programme there are instances of estate agents recommending law firms to help a buyer hide his identity. One estate agent names a “very, very good lawyer … the last person I put them was another minister of a previous Soviet state.”
Ahead of the broadcast Marsh & Parsons issued a statement to The Guardian newspaper saying: “We are aware of the scheduled Channel 4 programme and we wait to see what the content of this might be.”
Now Estate Agent Today has been given an additional statement by the company. It reads, in full:
“Following a review of the allegations made in a letter sent to us prior to the broadcast, leading barrister Lord Ken Macdonald QC, the former Director of Public Prosecutions, concluded that the matters referred to in that letter did not appear to amount to unambiguous evidence of a money laundering offence.
“Having now had an opportunity to view the broadcast in full, we agree with this assessment and are disappointed at the way in which matters were portrayed.
“In particular, we do not accept that a desire for confidentiality or the use of offshore trusts is evidence of money laundering.
“We treat all of our clients’ affairs with utmost confidentiality and trust structures are used regularly for completely legitimate purposes, especially in the prime central London market in which we operate.
“Like any company that prides itself on its professional and ethical standards, Marsh & Parsons will continue to observe best practice in terms of training and the application of this notoriously difficult area of the law.
“That said, the issues raised in the programme are a timely reminder that there is no room for complacency. Where appropriate, we will strengthen our procedures to ensure that our staff are in no doubt as to their obligations and that we achieve the highest levels of compliance.”
The RICS and the NAEA have announced that they are to conduct separate investigations into the programme and its allegations.