The National Association of Estate Agents says the agents named in Channel 4‘s From Russia With Cash documentary may have tarnished the reputation of the industry as a whole, and has launched an investigation into the issue.
Mark Hayward, the association’s managing director, says in a statement: “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.”
He continues: “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 NAEA has not given specifics of how and when its investigation will be conducted, nor whether all the agents mentioned in last night’s programme were association members.
The programme approached five high end London estate agents in a bid to see how they operate to counter money laundering. Those agents were Winkworth, Marsh & Parsons, Domus Nova, Chard and Bective Leslie Marsh.
A ‘politician’ - supposed to be a Russian government minister - spoke with agents about a plan, allegedly to use millions of pounds of stolen money to purchase high end property in the capital.
Despite the agents being made aware of the dubious background of the funding, some appear to have agreed to continue with a potential purchase.
In several instances the estate agents recommend law firms to help a buyer hide his identity.