On Wednesday 22nd June I attended the ARLA/NAEA Conference at the Titanic Experience in Belfast; I am pleased to report that, with one exception, the speakers all managed to avoid stories about icebergs and sinking!
David Cox, ARLA MD, opened the day and introduced Mark Hayward NAEA MD, and Nik Madan, the recently appointed ARLA President who welcomed everyone to the first conference to be held in Belfast. As both letting and sales agents were present there was a choice of sessions that delegates could attend throughout the day, only coming together for refreshment breaks and the final session by the Government spokesperson who updated us on the Review and Consultation conducted over last winter and then for the finale which was a Q&A session with the ‘expert panel’.
I mainly followed the letting agent sessions and began by attending a very interesting presentation by Fiona Donegan of the United Kingdom Financial Intelligence Unit of the National Crime Agency (NCA). Fiona concentrated on Anti-Money Laundering Legislation and explained the various ‘layers’ that criminals use to lauder ‘dirty money’ beginning with ‘placement’ then ‘layering’ and finally ‘integration’ and talked us through how to complete a Suspicious Activity Report (SAR) via the NCA website.
Fiona explained that, in order to avoid prosecution, it is important to gain ‘consent’ from the NCA before continuing your involvement with any activity that you are suspicious of and have reported; there is a ‘tick-box’ on the SAR document and NCA should give you a decision within 7 days after they do some initial investigation. Some of the case-studies that Fiona shared with us explained how most serious money-laundering crimes involve professional people such as lawyers or accountants.
In 1987 there were only 600 SARs filed; last year there were 381,882 filed of which 355 were from estate agents and 132 of these involved ‘consent’ requests. Statistically there is now 1 SAR filed per 3,000 property sales in the UK.
Fiona ended by reminding us of the very severe penalties that are handed down for money-laundering and we were all sufficiently disturbed to remind ourselves to go and review our own procedures for preventing these crimes and ensure that we do not get innocently involved through our ignorance of what is required to prevent them.