First real estate agency warned for anti-money laundering failures

Property is a high risk area for money laundering in organized crime, including for overseas criminals.

ROSA WOODS / things

Property is a high risk area for money laundering in organized crime, including for overseas criminals.

A nationwide real estate buying company received a formal money laundering warning.

Real estate agency Property Brokers has failed to comply with anti-money laundering and terrorist financing laws, the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) said.

It was the first formal warning to a real estate agent, DIA said.

Real estate agents, who had more than 80 offices across the country and employed over 700 people, helped people buy homes and commercial properties.

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Mike Stone, director of DIA’s anti-money laundering team, said Property Brokers had failed to meet some of its obligations related to establishing, operating and maintaining its anti-money laundering program.

This included hiring and training compliance staff.

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“They also did not have adequate policies, procedures and controls in place to monitor compliance with or follow guidelines from money laundering and terrorist financing regulators,” Stone said.

However, the company is not involved in money laundering or terrorist financing.

“Real estate is a valuable asset that is widely used domestically and internationally for laundering and investing the proceeds of crime. Companies are required to have robust processes in place to protect them from abuse, ”said Stone.

“Our inspection of real estate agents identified concerns and it is our responsibility to address those concerns. New Zealanders must have confidence in the integrity of the New Zealand financial system. “

The company needed to take immediate action to resolve all areas of non-compliance and would continue to be closely monitored by DIA officials, Stone said.

Penalties for continued violations could result in civil penalties of up to $ 200,000 for individuals and $ 2 million for businesses, and even imprisonment, he said.

Real estate agents describe themselves as “Residential Selling Experts” providing service and support to home buyers and sellers.