The property sector has long been associated with money laundering whether actual or perceived. The techniques used (or attempted) are varied and are growing and this article by Jonathan Fisher QC describes some of the less known techniques used by criminals. I would recommend anyone (not just solicitors) involved in the property sector to read it.
Aside from my 20+ years advising on construction projects, I spent a few years regulating solicitors and those employed by them. My work was varied but included cases where solicitors working in the property and conveyancing fields had been deceived into permitting and/or facilitating money laundering. The techniques used were varied but a common thread was the misuse (or attempted misuse) of the solicitors' client account.
Sadly, it was rare (if at all) for these cases to be 'victim less' and the sums defrauded from private individuals and financial institutions were substantial. Where appropriate the victims were compensated by, in effect, the solicitors profession as a whole. And, of course, regulatory action was taken against those involved but the damage to image of the profession had been done.
Money laundering is unlikely to disappear so the key, as Jonathan Fisher himself says, is that "Property professionals must keep their eyes peeled not only for obvious signs of money laundering but also for more subtle indications".
So as the late Shaw Taylor would end his TV crime programme Police 5, "keep 'em peeled!".
The UK government’s National risk assessment of money laundering and terrorist financing 2017 (published in October) revealed that in an analysis of suspicious activity reports linked to property, 27% highlighted the presence of companies and trusts, 36% highlighted use of professional intermediaries and 17% reported high cash payments. However, in other cases, the money launderers’ techniques may be more subtle and sophisticated, making it difficult for the property professional to spot.