Foreign criminals are laundering billions of pounds through buying expensive properties and are pushing up house prices, says the National Crime Agency.
Money Laundering is Distorting the Housing Market
The Agency says that this is distorting the housing market in the UK.
Donald Toon, Economic Crime Command Director of the National Crime Agency, says that criminals have artificially driven prices higher by sequestering their assets in this country.
Toon urges estate agents to report any suspicious activity.
He says that he is “alarmed” by the amount of homes with registered ownerships to complex offshore holdings.
In the first financial quarter of this year, the Treasury earned £142m from Annual Tax on Enveloped Dwellings (ATED).
ATED is payable on properties bought by “non-natural persons”, including companies, trusts and investment firms, rather than individuals.
When ATED was launched in 2014, it was only payable on properties worth £2m or more. It is now charged on properties worth £1m or over and next year it will be payable on properties worth £500,000 or more.
Toon says: “Prices of high end property are being artificially driven up by the desire of overseas criminals to sequester their assets here in the UK. What they are doing is distorting the market.
“If [estate agents] have a suspicion that there may be money laundering involved, then they absolutely should be submitting a suspicious activity report.”
He warns agents: “You are at risk of committing a criminal offence if you do not do that.”1
Director of Valuations at Savills, Simon Aldous, states: “People have put a property into company vehicles for a number of reasons other than money laundering.
“But there must be something there – to say there isn’t any money laundering would be naïve, but to understand the extend of it is impossible.”1