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Posted on January 14th 2016 by admin-movingin

Agents warned to check both buyers and sellers to comply with anti-money laundering

Estate agents should check out both buyers and sellers, and letting agents should report any suspicious activity.

Both points were made in an HMRC webinar held yesterday afternoon on money laundering.

Around 700 people logged into the webinar, one of several held yesterday by HMRC, which also revealed that it has fined businesses for not meeting their money laundering obligations.

HMRC took over the regulatory duty in April 2014 from the OFT.

However, it is not clear whether the businesses it has fined may have been estate agents.

If that is the case, Property Industry Eye has received no details.

In its final days of existence in March 2014, the OFT heavily publicised it had fined three agents an enormous amount – a total of £246,665 – for alleged breaches.

In yesterday’s webinar, one participant asked: “An earlier answer said CDD [customer due diligence] was required on buyers as well as sellers.

“All the previous advice and training we’ve had is that it only applies to our sellers, ie the person(s) paying our fee, our client.”

The HMRC replied: “CDD is required on your customer whether they are the buyer or seller. Best practice is to identify both parties.”

The webinar also made clear that any estate agent doing lettings must report any suspicious lettings activity.

The webinar followed a report by Transparency International called ‘Don’t look, won’t find’.

Separately, on the other side of the Atlantic, the US government is set to clamp down hard on money laundering through property transactions, by requiring agents to disclose names behind all-cash transactions.

The New York Times says it is the first time the federal government has made this requirement which “is likely to send shudders through the real estate industry” which has benefited from a boom “increasingly dependent on wealthy, secretive buyers”.

The paper says it is part of a broader effort to clamp down on money laundering.

Treasury official Jennifer Shasky Calvery said there have been examples where multi-million dollar homes have been used by shell companies “as safe deposit boxes for ill-gotten gains”.

The Treasury will focus on cash purchases and purchases by shell companies, at first in Manhattan and Miami and initially from March through to August.

If the Treasury finds that many sales involve suspicious money, the requirement will be rolled out nationally and made permanent.