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Agents urged to be more suspicious

Increasing numbers of estate agents are submitting suspicious activity reports (SARS) but questions are being raised about whether there should be more.

Analysis from anti-money laundering (AML) platform Thirdfort has revealed that estate agents submitted 15% more SARs in 2021/22 compared with the previous year.

The research shows the total number of SARs submitted by estate agents increased from 948 in 2020/2021 to 1094 in 2021/2022.


However, Thirdfort’s analysis of National Crime Agency figures shows this represents just 0.1% of the total numbers of SARs from across all sectors.

Banks submitted the most SARs across 2020/2021 and 2021/2022, registering nearly 600,000 and 700,000 respectively. Overall, some 50 sectors submitted 1.8m SARs across the two periods.

With 22,145 estate agencies in the UK, according to the Office for National Statistics, this means  just a tiny fraction of agents are submitting SARs, Thirdfort said.

Harriet Holmes, AML services manager at Thirdfort, said: “Estate agents are at an increased risk of money laundering, but just a fraction are submitting SARs. As such, there may be some underreporting in the sector. 

“There may be several reasons, from a lack of adequate information, the client relationship, to agents not appreciating the SARs process . But, whatever the reason, agents must recognise regulators are more focused on SARs than they used to be.

“Agents should take a thorough approach to their anti-money laundering obligations and encourage employees to engage with the compliance process and raise issues when they spot them. Taking a more proactive approach to AML will enable agents to stay on the right side of the regulations far beyond SARs submission alone.”   


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