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HM Revenue & Customs carried out an extensive investigation on the UK’s real-estate agencies to discover several breaches in the country’s anti-money laundering regulations.
A list by the agency has been disclosed that includes the name of Landmark Sales & Lettings Limited in Reading which has failed to carry out due diligence protocols and timings of customer verification. Due to these breaches, the company was fined £5,250 as a penalty. Another agency in Wimbledon in London, Robert Holmes, was fined £6,591 for failing to have proper policies, procedures, controls, and due diligence. Before that, a money transfer business MR Global was also fined £23m.
Deputy director at HMRC’s fraud investigation, Nick Sharp, said, “Money laundering is not a victimless crime. Criminals use laundered cash to fund serious organized crime, from drug importation to child sexual exploitation, human trafficking, and even terrorism. We’re here to help businesses protect themselves from those who would prey on their services. That includes taking action against the minority who fail to meet their legal obligations under the regulations as this record fine clearly shows.”
The HMRC’s list only made the names of four companies and two agents public. Guild Property Professionals say that this is a warning that the industry must strengthen its anti-money laundering strategies and no matter what the size of the business is, the firms must know every single customer they deal with in order to avoid any financial damage or reputational damage.
The firms must ensure their policies even if they are using electronic means of compliance. They still have to have a business risk assessment and train their teams with risk management. Guild Property Professionals also says that the firms “still need to have a process for ongoing customer due diligence – and for every single seller or buyer they must be able to demonstrate they have completed a risk assessment; completed verification checks, checked on PEP and Financial Sanctions status – all before a business relationship commences”