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UK estate agents targeted in money laundering crackdown

(People's Daily Online)    13:49, March 08, 2019

Estate agents in the UK have been hit with unannounced inspections as part of a week-long crackdown on money laundering in the property industry, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has revealed.

HMRC officers visited 50 estate agents across England who were suspected of trading without being registered as required under money laundering regulations.

The visits came as HMRC published the latest businesses hit with fines for failing to comply with the regulations. This list includes estate agent Countrywide Estate Agents, who received a £215,000 fine.

HMRC will now take action against the businesses who have failed to comply, which can include fines, publication and even criminal proceedings.

John Glen, Economic Secretary to the Treasury, said, “The vast majority of estate agents play by the rules and help us to crack down on dirty money. However, I have zero tolerance for firms prepared to turn a blind eye to the law. Money laundering regulation exists to help protect honest business, so anyone who flaunts the law should know that swift action will be taken.”

Ben Wallace, Minister for National Security and Economic Crime, echoed Glen's view, adding, “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 defense against them, and that’s why they’re under a legal – and moral – obligation to file a report when they spot something amiss.

“It’s wrong to think of money laundering as a victimless crime. Those with dirty cash to clean don’t just sit on it – they reinvest it in serious organized crime, from drug importation to child sexual exploitation, human trafficking and even terrorism.”

This is the first week of action involving intelligence-led, co-ordinated activity aimed at estate agents trading without HMRC registration as legally required.

The visits involved HMRC inspectors questioning businesses to establish whether they have been trading in breach of the regulations. Inspectors then assess whether any further action is required. (Tianxing Bai)

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Bianji, Hongyu)

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