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Anti-money laundering: Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) rise

Thursday 12 October 2017

The National Crime Agency have published their annual Suspicious Activity Report for 2017, looking at the volume of SARs made and the industry sectors who made them.

But whilst the number of estate agents reporting potential money laundering activity may have risen over the past 12 months, the figures still only represent a small proportion of all reports made.

The latest statistics from the National Crime Agency revealed that only one in every 300 property purchases by overseas buyers trigger a so-called ‘red flag’, meaning that of the 1.2 million property deals created in the year to March 2016, only 355 triggered Suspicious Activity Reports.

In the 18 months between October 2015 and March this year, there were 766 Suspicious Activity Reports made by estate agents, which represents just 0.12% of the total number of the 634,113 reports during the period. Banks and building societies were the biggest reporters of suspicious activity during this time.

These figures however are a snapshot, and represent the period before the Fourth Anti-Money Laundering and Terrorist Financial Directive, which was bought into force back in June 2017.

You can view the full National Crime Agency report here.

Estate agents’ reporting responsibilities have recently been strengthened by the latest EU Money Laundering Directive, which requires agents, financial institutions and law firms to report suspicious activity to the NCA. Under the regulations, agents must now apply customer due diligence to both buyers and sellers to reduce the risk of potentially illegal activity and terrorist financing within the property sector.

NAEA Propertymark Chief Executive, Mark Hayward, commented:

“Whilst the increase in percentage terms is laudable, it is still absurdly low in terms of transaction levels which will result in a continued focus on our sector from enforcement agencies - no one wants to see the UK property market as a safe haven for criminal behaviour. As the leading professional body for estate agent personnel, we provide an extensive array of courses, masterclasses and events to ensure that the sector is aware of its obligations. Education and knowledge is key. A lot more needs to be done, but we welcome the progress being made.”

Our free Masterclassess are run throughout the year and will focus on anti-money laundering regulation for the remainder of 2017. 

We have also added new dates to our Financial Crime Update course for 2018, which covers the very latest developments in money laundering regulation, including the implications of the Bribery Act.