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Money laundering: RICS wants higher standards and self-regulation

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors says it wants to see 'minimum competency' requirements for sales and letting agents to handle anti-money laundering issues, regulated by the industry itself. 

Luay Al-Khatib, director of regulation for UK and Ireland at RICS, says the competency standards should be introduced as soon as possible and should be regulated by the industry - possibly by the RICS.

Al-Khatib has told Estates Gazette magazine that "the biggest issues [surrounding money laundering] are perhaps ignorance and complacency" although he says the law is clear that agents "have a responsibility to check the identity of customers."


He says RICS wants to have a major role in any future regulation of agents.

"There's a lot professional bodies can do to ensure compliance by members. RICS will be applying to become a Treasury-designated supervisory body for anti-money laundering" he says. This refers to a European Union law to be enshrined in UK law by mid-2017 which allows industry self-regulation and compliance checking.

In the same article - which considers how the industry should respond to revelations of apparent money-laundering made in Channel 4's From Russia With Love - the National Association of Estate Agents says the focus of agents should embrace identifying and assessing buyers as well as sellers.

"Anti-money laundering procedures in the UK have centred on the seller rather than buyer, with agents failing to appreciate the implications of the Proceeds of Crime Act" explains NAEA managing director Mark Hayward.

Trevor Mealham - founder of the Independent Network of Estate Agents and a consultation contributor to new industry guidelines created by the National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team - was more drastic in his suggestions.  

"Legislation should insist properties for sale would first be identified and registered. Geo-location, property type, usage, ownrship and secondary titles could be established. Using data analysis, there could be 'investigation triggers' [sent] to HMRC, the Treasury, Serious Fraud Suad and so on" says Mealham.

The RICS and NAEA have both committed to report the findings of their own investigations into the actions of some of the agents filmed in the From Russia With Cash documentary.


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