Office of Fair Trading fines three estate agents for breaching money laundering regulations
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Finance, Legal
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The Office of Fair Trading confirmed in February that three estate agents based in London, Northampton and Cardiff were fined a total of £246,665 for failing to comply with the money laundering regulations of 2007.
Hastings International, with two offices in South London, was fined £47,966, while Jackson Grundy, based in Duston, Northampton with 10 premises, was fined £169,652, and Cardiff-based Jeffrey Ross, which at the time of the investigation also held two offices in London, was fined £29,000.
The Office of Fair Trading reported that “the failures in all three cases were significant and widespread”.
The OFT highlighted that the estate agents failed to apply sufficient customer due diligence measures when carrying out work and failed to establish and maintain the correct policies and procedures on adequate record-keeping, internal controls or risk assessments.
The condemning report also stated the companies had failed to “train relevant employees in how to recognise and deal with transactions and other activities which may be related to money laundering and terrorist financing”.
Michael Deering, compliance director at Ramsey Crookall, specialists in investment management, stockbroking and compliance, said, “All financial institutions are at risk, for example, banks, fund managers, money exchange bureaus, estate agents, accountants and lawyers. Legislation puts in place requirements on both institution and individual to be ever aware of the risk of money laundering and to report their suspicions to law enforcement agencies.”
Mr Deering also reiterated what is clear in this case that “not doing so or aiding a criminal to launder money is punishable by heavy fines and even a prison sentence”.
As of 1 April 2014, HM Revenues and Customs will take over supervision of the estate agency businesses. HMRC have already published new guidance to help estate agents stay on the right side of money laundering regulations.
Jenny Ottewell, head of anti-money laundering supervision, HMRC, said: “Our new guidance will help estate agencies decide whether money laundering regulations apply to their business and understand their responsibilities if they do.”