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Money Laundering Regulations

These were original devised to catch international currency offences, mostly drug money, etc. Banks had to report any suspicious transactions to the authorities. The system worked and a number of criminals were caught and prosecuted with illegal funds recovered.

This success led to wider regulations and these also proved beneficially. The third set of directives now includes estate agents on the argument that many criminals use property transactions to legitimise or launder dirty money from the black economy or illegal activities. The latest regulations cover estate agents and solicitors who are supposed go through a procedure called ‘know your client’ (KYC) before accepting instructions.

For estate agents the rules are fairly simple: we need to see personal identification such as your passport, a photographic driving licence or a fire-arms certificate – basically anything with an official photograph we can verify and record the reference number.

Secondly we need to link the individual to the property for sale. Again this is easy enough – we need to see a Council Tax bill, utility bill, etc. It must have your name and the property address and be less than three months old. Mobile phone bills do not count. We may well know who you are but we need to be able to record the reference numbers and the date and then sign a certificate which the authorities can inspect if ever checking up on us!

Hopefully this will not be inconvenient to you. Matters are more difficult where you are abroad and we cannot compare you directly with the documentary evidence. A certified identification from your solicitor or a doctor is acceptable but, technically, we are not supposed to accept instructions from anyone until satisfied that the KYC procedures were in order.

Presently we are not required to take similar steps to verify the identity of prospective buyers (at least not from the money laundering aspect) but Brussels is working on a new draft EU Directive which will tighten the regulations. Don’t hold your breath.

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