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More than 30 agents and property firms such as auction houses and Valuers were reprimanded by HMRC for anti-money laundering breaches last year, official data shows.

The taxman has revealed its latest list of businesses that have not been fined for not complying with money laundering regulations.

It names firms that haven’t registered with HMRC for anti-money laundering (AML) supervision or brands that have failed to conduct adequate checks.

More than 30 estate and lettings agents and commercial property and auction firms feature on the list for April to December 2021.

This is out of around 79 firms, making up 44% of AML breaches.

One of the largest fines was for:

  • Bond Wolfe Auctions at £52,000 for “failing to apply for registration at the required time.”

Wolfe Auctions blamed a misunderstanding of the reach and scope of anti-money laundering regulations.

A spokesperson for Wolfe Auctions told Estate Agent Today:

  • “We have complied with all the usual AML regulations since our launch in January 2019, and all buyers and sellers have to undergo full AML checks.
  • “However, despite a regular dialogue with HMRC on the usual matters concerning tax on the setting up of our auction division, they did not advise us until sometime later that we also had to register for a scheme entitled ‘The Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing and Transfer of Funds (Information on the Payer)’.
  • “We were unaware that we had to register, and even our tax and AML advisors were unaware that we should.”

The fines levied by HMRC are linked to turnover and time, hence the original fine of £52,000 – which was actually discounted to a payment of £39,000 as Bond Wolfe Auctions settled immediately.

The spokesperson added:

  • “We regard this as a disproportionately high penalty for an oversight which is levied purely and simply because of our turnover level – in effect a tax on us launching so successfully from the outset.”

Lloyds Property Group, which is registered in Essex but operates in Dorset, was also on the list and received a fine of £15,000 from HMRC for:

  • “Failures in carrying out risk assessments, having the correct policies controls and procedures, conducting due diligence and timing of verification.”
  • Estate Agent Today has asked the company for comment.

Witter Properties, a franchisee of the Lovelle brand, was fined £5,000 for failing to register for AML supervision in time.

  • The company has been asked for comment.

View the full list of firms.

There is no suggestion that these firms are still not compliant and the list does not reveal if those on the list have since registered.


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