The influential Treasury Select Committee says estate agents should be more closely monitored to ensure they abide by anti-money laundering regulations.
In a unanimously-agreed report called ‘Economic Crime – Anti-money laundering supervision and sanctions implementation” the all-party group also calls for agents to be registered with HMRC for anti-money laundering.
The report, from a committee chaired by Nicky Morgan MP, admits the scale of economic crime in the UK is very uncertain, with estimates ranging from the tens of billions of pounds to the hundreds of billions.
It also accuses of measures to deter money laundering being “highly fragmented” and split between 22 professional bodies - one being the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.
Although the events are formally unconnected, the publication of the report comes just a few days after HMRC published details of its £215,000 fine on Countrywide for failing to abide by AML regulations. Revenue officials also raided 50 agency branches of a range of companies across England and Wales earlier this week, with possible prosecutions pending in some cases.
In a special section on agents, today’s report says: “Estate agents have been roundly criticised for failing to protect the UK from proceeds of corruption being stashed in the property sector.
“Indeed, the Security Minister at the Home Office called them a ‘weak link’ in the AML regime.
“It was also suggested that more emphasis should be placed on solicitors as they will often assess the source of a customer’s funds.
“HMRC should ensure that estate agents are registered with it for AML-purposes and ensure that they are following best practice.”
This morning Mark Hayward, chief executive at NAEA Propertymark, told EAT in relation to the report: “We unequivocally welcome today’s report on Economic Crime.
“As our evidence suggests, we’re aware of the risks of money laundering in the property sector, and will work with government bodies to further ensure estate agents are prepared to deal with economic crime.”
The NAEA sits on a group called the Office for Professional Body Anti-Money Laundering Supervision, along with government and other professional organisations.
Hayward continues: “We endorse the committee’s recommendations and hope the government take them seriously, especially enhancing the role OPBAS plays in the ecosystem of economic crime.”
You can see today's report in full here.