Conveyancers Used for Laundering Millions of Pounds across the UK
Government warns that hundreds of millions of pounds are being laundered by criminals across the UK through conveyancers.
Evidence also proves that litigation firms from London have unintentionally become a part of money laundering activities. Assessment of risk of money laundering and terrorist financing has also highlighted that the risk of money laundering is high especially through the involvement of lawyers. Conveyancing still remains to be the major threat of money laundering.
If the majority of the property bought in the UK has been legitimate, there is a great possibility that much of the property bought in London over the years might be from illegal money and millions are laundered through conveyancing.
HM Treasury and the Home Office says, “Although further evidence is needed to ascertain geographical conveyancing risks, it is likely that criminals favor locations with high-value residential properties such as London or university towns due to high demand and potential investment return opportunities. However, commercial properties are also attractive for money laundering purposes, as they often carry an equally high price.”
The major red flag is clients using anonymity through complex corporate structures while buying their property. The officials say that they have viewed many reports that state that law firms in London are being approached by potential new clients. These new clients are based in overseas jurisdictions. These clients ask the law firms to represent them in business-related disputes based in the UK. Then these clients send some money as a way of payment and after a few days, they cancel the case claiming that the dispute has been resolved and they request their money back. The returned funds are now considered clean in the system.
The law firms unintentionally get involved in money laundering by providing their services to such clients. FATF recommends that law practitioners should verify the beneficiaries before extending services to them.