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‘HMRC should work harder to get agents to abide by AML regulations’

A 15-month research project says HMRC should do more to engage estate agents in recognising the importance of complying with anti-money laundering regulations - and the agents themselves should display ‘proud to be ASML compliant’ badges.

The recommendations come from the Centre for Financial Crime and Security Studies at the Royal United Services Institute, an independent think tank engaged in defence and security research.

The study was across a range of sectors, including legal and accountancy services, but the section on estate agencies confirmed some existing thinking but produced new ideas as well.

The conclusion is that estate agents, despite pockets of good practice, has poor AML compliance rates are poor and low numbers of suspicious activity reports. RUSI says the government’s recently-undertaken national risk assessment - which identified measures to be taken by the agency industry - “will do little to remedy this situation.”

RUSI says that in particular the government’s measures to date appear to show too little understanding of the increasing diversity amongst agents - “particularly ... the potential criminal abuse of less well-understood areas such as property finders, auctions and the emerging online-only model.”

The Institute saw there is also a need to contact the large numbers of sole traders and micro-businesses agency.

“The key to securing better intelligence engagement from the sector lies in tackling two key issues – the industry culture around AML and poor AML supervision registration rates” says the Institute’s report.

“This paper suggests rebalancing the risk–reward equation in this competitive market through more robust and visible supervision by HM Revenue and Customs and the creation of ‘proud to comply’ AML branding to sit alongside other good-practice hallmarks adopted by the industry” it continues.

The report also says links between HMRC and industry regulatory and representative bodies are underdeveloped “and therefore failing to make use of the wealth of information and intelligence outside the formal AML regime, such as trade bodies.”

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