"Last week HMRC raided 50 estate agencies that it suspected of failing to register under anti-money-laundering rules."
As I wrote in KYC360 in November:
A longtime favorite vehicle for money launderers, real estate as a means of hiding illicit proceeds has gained the renewed attention of regulators and legislators throughout the world.
Real estate was an $8.5 trillion market in 2017, which warrants regulatory scrutiny and enhanced transparency for an industry exposed to the downstream risks of criminal activity.
The primary money laundering risk for the real estate industry is lack of transparency, specifically with regards to cash transactions and purchases by ever-problematic shell companies.
Residual effects of real property purchased with illegal funds include artificial real estate market inflation and higher costs of living, especially in dense urban areas.
A report released on Friday recommended the government take tougher action against ill-gotten funds flowing into companies and real estate. Estate agents, the Economic Crime Report said, need to be better regulated by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). "There is a risk that some estate agents may be unsupervised," the report noted. Ben Wallace, the security minister at the Home Office, said it was "absolutely the case that estate agents have been one of the weak links in the suspicious activity and money-laundering schemes. They have not done nearly enough at all."