Anyone who watches Channel 4’s ‘From Russia With Cash’ will agree that it is now time for estate agents to be regulated suggests Matthew Steeples
On Wednesday, Channel 4 showed a 45-minute documentary in which an actor pretended to be a Russian seeking to launder cash by buying properties in London. In it, estate agents were filmed clearly agreeing to participate in activities that can be described at best as “dubious” and at worst “criminal”.
Opening with a Winkworth employee named James Moran showing the invented Russian a South Kensington flat, the agent laughed as ‘Boris’ (played by a Russian anti-corruption campaigner named Roman Borisovich) remarked: “It’s fifty shades of grey… Needless to say the money for this flat comes out of the government budget but obviously, nobody needs to know about this”. Despite clearly being told that the money had been illegally obtained, Moran responded by commenting: “So it’s just a flat with a nice Russian girl living in it… No problem”.
When presented with the covertly filmed evidence, a spokesman for Winkworth commented:
“We require our agents to be fully compliant with both legal requirements and estate agency best practice at all times. Winkworth has a long-standing reputation and seeks to uphold the highest of standards”.
A representative of Mr Moran added:
“The insinuation that James Moran in some way behaved unlawfully is unjustified… Mr Moran behaved entirely appropriately for a professional… [He] was entitled… to take the view that, from his comments and behaviour, ‘Boris’ was not a bona fide buyer”.
Others featured included Peter Phillips of Chard – whom ‘Boris’ clearly told he was on a small salary and unable to afford the £4.95 million house he was shown – Benson Beard of Bective Leslie Marsh and Ben Podesta of Domus Nova. All denied misleading lawyers and assisting with money laundering and Podesta went as far to comment: “In circumstances where I was being enticed into breaking the law, I declined to do so and feel I have vindicated myself by acting entirely properly”.
Yet again, the estate agency industry has been brought into disrepute. Here, if ever it were needed, is the evidence as to why estate agents should be regulated. It is time for David Cameron to act.
To watch From Russia with Cash click here.
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