Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Seychelles reviewing framework for real estate transactions in bid to combat money laundering

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Seychelles’ authorities have started a consultative process to review the framework governing estate agents and land registration to combat anti-money laundering and terrorist financing activities, a top government official said on Tuesday.

The review comes after concerns raised by the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) on the increasing number of unlicensed individuals undertaking licensable activities as real estate agents, said Patrick Payet, the Secretary of State for Finance, Trade, Investment and Economic.

“Some of the risks relate to individuals doing illegal activities who are finding ways to cover their money by buying properties such as land or buildings. In the process, an unlicensed agent is identified to facilitate the transaction. Sometimes the unlicensed agent might also be at risk for not knowing the proper procedural requirements,” said Payet.

He said that a lot of people selling their land are not going to licensed estate agents who have the responsibility to report any suspicious illegal activity concerning selling and buying land.

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An estate agent is a person or business who arranges the selling, renting or management of properties and other buildings.

“At FIU we have noticed that there are weaknesses in the informal sector as people are looking that way to launder money. This is why we are reviewing the framework and are putting emphasis on estate agents as we rely on proper reporting to be able to come up with a case and stop money laundering,” said Rampal.

Related: Seychelles must act fast on money-laundering, says central bank

The primary role of the FIU is to protect Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, from being used by terrorists, organised crime groups or other criminals to conduct activities or launder monies in the financial services sector.

The consultative meeting started last week with the participation of relevant government authorities in line with the objectives of the national Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism body.

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The Finance Secretary of State said there is also the issue of illegal advertising.

“There has been growing concerns about unlicensed individuals who are continuously advertising the sale of properties on behalf of third parties without the required AML/CFT control measures, which may result in putting the country to threats of money laundering,” said Payet.

The chairman of the Estate Agent Board, Patrick Lablache, said reviewing the framework is the first step in the right direction to put an order in things.

“Sometimes there are unlicensed agents operating even outside the country and we don’t have the jurisdiction to take action. The new framework will be drafted clearly to give us guidelines on how to proceed in that manner,” he said.

Lablache added that the review will not disallow individual to sell their property or land themselves, but advising to go through an agent who knows the legal procedures.

According to the Estate Agent Board, there are only 10 licensed estate agents in operation where clients can go for their respective transactions.

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