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Posted on July 27th 2015 by admin-movingin

Money laundering distorting housing market, says National Crime Agency

Foreign criminals are laundering billions of pounds through buying expensive properties, and driving up house prices.

The National Crime Agency claimed the UK housing market is being distorted.

Its economic crime command director, Donald Toon, said prices were being artificially driven up by criminals sequestering their assets here in the UK.

Toon urged estate agents to report any suspicious activity.

Toon said he was “alarmed” by the number of expensive homes with ownerships registered to complex offshore holdings.

The Treasury earned £142m in the first financial quarter of this year from ATED – the Annual Tax on Enveloped Dwellings.

The tax is payable on properties bought by “non-natural persons” – ie, companies, trusts and investment firms, rather than individuals.

When ATED was first introduced in 2014 it was payable on properties worth £2m or more. ATED is now payable for properties over £1m, and next year it will be payable on properties over £500,000.

Toon said: “Prices of high-end property are being artificially driven up by the desire of overseas criminals to sequester their assets here in the UK.

“What they are doing is distorting the market.

“If [estate agents] have a suspicion that there may be money laundering involved, then they absolutely should be submitting a suspicious activity report.”

He warned agents: “You are at risk of committing a criminal offence if you do not do that.”

Simon Aldous, director of valuations at Savills, said: “People have put a property into company vehicles for a number of reasons other than money laundering.

“But there must be something there – to say there isn’t any money laundering would be naïve, but to understand the extent of it is impossible.”

There has as yet been no update from the RICS or NAEA as to their inquiries into member agents apparently turning a blind eye to money laundering in the television investigation From Russia With Cash.