Real estate agents should be high on alert as they are vulnerable to money launderers seeking to clean ill-gotten wealth from illicit deals, the Reserve Bank Zimbabwe has warned. IN AN interview with The Herald Property recently, RBZ Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) manager Mr Kenneth Ngwarai, said the real estate sector is on the high risk of receiving proceeds of illicit deals.
"Criminals are now aware that banks have put in place tight measures to monitor money laundering, so they are now opting to purchase property in order to secure their money. For this reason the estate agents are vulnerable to money laundering and terrorist financing risk," Mr Ngwarai said.
He said criminals continue to find ways to evade strict measures that have been put in place to monitor investment of funds acquired through illicit means, hence have moved to investing their money in less protected sectors like the real estate.
"Regardless of the strength and effectiveness of the money laundering controls in the country, criminals continue attempting to move illicit funds undetected, they are more likely to target designated financial institutions like real estate, money transfer agencies and the insurance sector.
"People are used to movement of money happening through banks, but banks are now subjected to Know Your Customer (KYC) to identify suspicious transactions and they have put measures in place, which are undoubtedly more advanced than the real estate," he said.
Mr Ngwarai also highlighted the need for real estate agencies to know their customers and report suspicious transactions to the Financial Intelligence Unit as they are (estate agents) an important stakeholder in the fight against money laundering.
"The real estate sector is a special stakeholder in the fight against money laundering, they are supposed to identify suspicious transactions and report to the FIU as laid down by section 30 in the Money Laundering and Proceeds of Crime Act," he said.
Designated institutions like banks, estate agents and money transfer agencies, insurance were identified at international level that they are likely to be used to move proceeds of money laundering, which might be used to finance terrorism and other illicit deals.