Countrywide has received the largest ever published fine given to an estate agent for non-compliance with anti-money laundering regulations, the Negotiator has been told.
HMRC yesterday revealed that the company had received a fine of £215,000 for numerous breaches of the 2017 AML regulations, alongside fines for two other estate agents, both of them online.
These were Tepilo, which has been fined £68,595 and Settled. It received a fine of £3,245.
“I have zero tolerance for firms prepared to turn a blind eye to the law,” says John Glenn, Economic Secretary to the Treasury (left).
None of the estate agents involved appealed their fines, which were issued between August and October last year, but have only now been published.
HMRC has also revealed that more fines are likely after fifty estate agents were visited by HMRC officers last week during a ‘crack-down’ on businesses that do not comply with AML rules and regulations.
This included 35 agents in London, five in Leicester, three in Manchester, four in South Bucks and Berkshire and one each in Watford, Wakefield and Wolverhampton.
Countrywide’s huge fine was for “failing to ensure policies, controls and procedures at group level; and for failures in conducting due diligence; timing of verification and proper record keeping”.
“Estate agents need to understand that criminals prey on weaknesses, so it’s vital they take all steps to protect themselves,” says Simon York, Director of HMRC’s Fraud Investigation Unit.
“The money laundering regulations are key to that, but there’s still a minority of agents who ignore their legal obligations. These inspections are a wake-up call that if you continue to trade illegally, we will come knocking.”