With President Putin looking more and more likely to invade Ukraine and the British Government set to introduce economic sanctions against Russian interests, it is certain that policing and action on Russian investment in the UK will become significantly tougher.
It is well known that there are huge investments in UK property from Russian interests and I would not be surprised to see HMRC (in conjunction with UK security organisations) increase their focus even more significantly on potential money laundering via the UK property market.
We have already seen HMRC's Economic Crime Supervision unit stepping up the number of inspections and audits of estate agents in recent weeks with Central London being a particular focus due to high property values and levels of foreign investment.
Estate Agents should already be all over money laundering compliance and have systems and processes in place to do so but I expect the scrutiny of activity (particularly involving Russian interests) to increase significantly.
I can see many estate agents now finding themselves in the cross fire and more exposed to risks of fines etc. if they are not completely robust in their approach.
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As everyone now knows, since originally writing thsis article, Russia has commenced an invasion of Ukraine and, almost without exception has been condemned by the international community. This has seen significant economic and other sanctionms imposed on the Russian regime and individuals within it.
The UK Government has said that they will be increasing their focus on Russian money within the UK and taking action to identify and punish those who are illegally using the UK property market to launder funds
It is likely that the Government will rapidly bring forward legislation to create a register of foreign property ownership and, as alluded to in the origianl article, step up enforcement action in terms of money laundering compliance.
Estate agents and others in the property sector must ensure that their systems and processes for identifying customers and clients and their source of funds are robust and properly documented and, where suspicions arise, reported.
As always, I am here to assist with any questions and my Money Laundering Regulations and how to comply training courses can be booked via this website here: