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A guide for Money Laundering Officers: Championing AML compliance in your agency

Increasingly rigorous Money Laundering Directives have made regulations in the property industry more stringent than ever, and Estate Agents have a legal obligation to carry out effective client identification and anti-money laundering (AML) checks.

According to research from iamproperty, 28% of Estate Agents don’t have an appointed Money Laundering Officer (MLO) - despite it being a primary requirement of HMRC Anti-Money Laundering regulations.

The administrative burden of AML compliance can be time consuming, but with the risk of HMRC audits, it’s vital to dot the i’s and cross the t’s. This is where, as a dedicated MLO, you can ensure that all areas of the business are compliant and provide guidance to the wider team, giving your business the edge in a competitive and highly regulated industry.


Getting started

As a nominated MLO chances are you have a lot on your plate! In order to hit the ground running as your agency’s MLO, you should take the following actions when appointed:

  • Ensure that HMRC are informed of your appointment through the Government Gateway portal on your AML registration page.

  • Ensure that all your staff are informed of your appointment and how they can contact you if they need to report any suspicions of money laundering.

  • Register yourself on the National Crime Agency (NCA) website. This will allow you to make a Suspicious Activity Report (SAR) quickly and easily.

Suspicious activity

When a member of staff reports suspicious activity to you, there are a few things you should consider in the first instance:

  • Consider all the facts and decide whether a SAR should be made to the NCA.

  • During this time, staff dealing with the client must ensure that they do not tell the client a SAR has been made.

  • You should await NCA approval to continue with your involvement in the transaction. In the unlikely event that you are not contacted by the NCA you are given ‘deemed’ consent after 7 working days from the date the report is made.

  • If you decide that a SAR is not appropriate as there is no suspicion of money laundering activity you should make clear notes on the reasoning behind your decision and retain that on file.

High-risk and PEPs

If a Risk Assessment indicates that a person is high-risk or a Politically Exposed Person (PEP), it’s easy to be apprehensive and unsure about how to proceed. The following tips can provide some clarity around next steps:  

  • Contrary to popular belief, you can continue to deal with a person/transaction even if they are high-risk or a PEP.

  • The high-risk or PEP assessment result means that you need to take additional steps to confirm their identity, because if a person is classed as high-risk there is a greater risk they will attempt to hide or disguise their identity.

  • In the case of a PEP, this may be due to a coincidental name match. This does not mean they are a PEP - it is still your responsibility to confirm their actual position. You can compare dates of birth to see if there is a match; Google the PEP so that you can obtain an image of them and comparing that to your client’s image; or ask your client directly if they are a PEP.

  • If you are unable to confirm whether the person is a PEP you should follow the guidance for high-risk individuals.

  • A member of your staff should monitor the transaction more closely than you would a normal transaction for any signs of potential money laundering. There is no requirement to make a SAR because of these assessments, but if any actual money laundering is suspected then a SAR should be made.

To make your life easier as an MLO, iamproperty’s end-to-end platform, movebutler, provides streamlined support for compliance processes, automating and guiding you through the above scenarios including document templates and alerts of high-risk transactions. Book a demonstration of the platform to find out more.



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