Tomorrow marks the anniversary of C4’s fly on the wall programme, From Russia with Cash, which showed estate agents, including members of the NAEA and RICS, apparently turning a blind eye to money laundering by corrupt foreign buyers.
Both bodies announced their own investigations. However, it now appears we will never know the results of the NAEA’s probe.
As the year has gone by, we have repeatedly asked both bodies about their investigations, asking for the latest updates yesterday and whether any members had been expelled.
An NAEA spokesperson said yesterday afternoon: “We can now confirm that the investigation into the documentary From Russia with Cash is complete.
“It would be inappropriate to comment further in respect of this matter and all details pertaining to the investigation will remain confidential to the National Federation of Property Professionals.”
On the programme aired last July 8, agents were seen with undercover reporters.
One was “Boris”, a clearly dodgy Russian, and the other his mistress “Nastya”, for whom he wanted to buy an upmarket property, using corrupt money.
Apparently caught on camera were agents from well-known firms such as Winkworth, Marsh & Parsons and Bective Leslie Marsh.
Marsh & Parsons acted quickly to say that it was “disappointed” in how it had been portrayed, and did not accept that “a desire for confidentiality or the use of offshore trusts is evidence of money laundering”.
However, even before the documentary was aired, the NAEA announced a year ago today that it would launch an investigation, with managing director Mark Hayward saying: “We do not condone the behaviour of the agents in the documentary From Russia with Cash and it is regretful that a small number of negligent agents tarnish the reputation of the industry as a whole.
“All agents should know that they have a responsibility to report any potential money laundering activities to the National Crime Agency, and failure to do so, or to enable such an action, is a criminal act.
“We take a dim view of members thinking they are above the law. Our members agree to comply with professional standards and we operate a range of sanctions to any breach of those standards. In the case of Anti-Money Laundering, members would face a disciplinary process which could involve expulsion and a fine of up to 5 million euros.
“As a consequence of this documentary we will be carrying out our own investigation and, if needs be, we will not refrain from taking the strongest appropriate action possible.”
The RICS also quickly announced a review.
The RICS has yet to respond to our request yesterday for information as to its progress but we will of course publish this if, and as soon as, a response becomes available.
Much of the drive behind anti-money laundering laws is to bring transparency as to ownership in residential property transactions.