The Government has joined forces with property industry experts in a bid to increase the number of estate agents reporting suspicions of dirty money being used to buy properties.
According to the National Crime Agency’s National Strategic Assessment 2018, money laundering in the UK amounts to hundreds of billions of pounds each year.
The Flag It Up campaign, which has already targeted solicitors and accountants, is now looking to estate agents to reduce the number of UK properties being bought with the proceeds of crime or corruption.
Working alongside professional bodies including the National Association of Estate Agents and Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, the Government aims to help estate agents spot the signs of money laundering and reinforce their legal and moral obligations to report all suspicious activity.
Ben Wallace, Minister for National Security and Economic Crime, said: “Criminals who seek to use this country as a place to launder money should be in no doubt that they have nowhere to hide.
“Estate agents are a crucial line of defence against them and that’s why they’re under a legal – and moral – obligation to file a report when they spot something amiss.”
The campaign will be promoted through social media, digital advertising and at industry conferences and urges estate agents to file a Suspicious Activity Report with the National Crime Agency when they spot signs such as the use of many different bank accounts and clients being evasive about the source of a large sum of money.
It will work alongside other Government actions such as the Criminal Finances Act and tools such as Unexplained Wealth Orders and Account Freezing Orders in a bid to combat the problem.
Simon York, Director of HMRC’s Fraud Investigation Service, said: “HMRC is determined to crack down on money laundering, and as the supervisor of estate agents under money laundering regulations, works closely with the sector to help them tackle this crime.
“The extensions of the Flag It Up campaign to the property industry will help bolster our efforts and send a clear message from both the Government and the sector that the door is closing on money laundering.”