How do criminals use commercial property to launder money?
21 January 2020
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More than £90bn is estimated to be laundered through the UK each year. Research from Transparency International, the not-for-profit organisation that combats corruption, has identified real estate worth more than £5bn as still being in ownership after having been bought with ‘suspicious wealth’.
In November, the National Crime Agency (NCA) recovered property worth £8.1m in the West Country, including a seven-bedroom converted barn and mill holiday-let property in Somerset, a Georgian townhouse in Bath run as a small hotel and a former telephone repeater station. These businesses generated a combined rental and commercial income of more than £2m. NCA investigators believe the portfolio was acquired through mortgage fraud and drug dealing.
This is not an isolated case. Despite a slowdown over recent years, rising property prices mean bricks and mortar is a safe bet for criminals. Commercial property has an advantage over residential in that it generates income while offering a presentable front behind which fraudulent activities can hide.