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Understanding money laundering through real estate transactions

Written by Cécile Remeur,

© FOTOCROMO / Shutterstock.

Money laundering through real estate transactions integrates black funds into the legal economy while providing a safe investment. It allows criminals to enjoy assets and derived funds having camouflaged the origin of the money used for payment.

A number of techniques are used, namely cash or opaque financing schemes, overvalued or undervalued prices, and non-transparent companies and trusts or third parties that act as legal owners. Among the possible indicators are geographical features (such as the distance between the property and the buyer and their actual geographical centre of interest). In order to assess the existence of a money-laundering risk, concrete assessments of transactions and a customer’s situation provide indications that help raise red flags and trigger reporting obligations.

The anti-money-laundering recommendations set out by the international Financial Action Task Force (FAFT) are implemented in the European Union (EU) by means of coordinated provisions (chiefly the Anti-money-laundering Directive). Customer due diligence and reporting of suspicious transactions are tools to address money laundering. Real estate transactions involve both non-financial and financial sector parties operating under different legal requirements. Yet, reporting of suspicious transactions in real estate is limited, leaving ample room for improvement.

Improvement is all the more necessary inasmuch as money laundering in general, and in the real estate sector in particular, has a major socio-economic impact, the magnitude of which is difficult to quantify. Awareness is however growing as a result not least of high profile examples of money laundering through real estate in a number of EU cities.

Read the complete briefing on ‘Understanding money laundering through real estate transactions‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

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