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Real Estate Agents Urged to be Alert

Real Estate Agents Urged to be Alert
New Zealand Real Estate Authority chief executive officer Kevin Lampen-Smith (front second from left), Minister for Industry, Trade, Tourism, Lands and Mineral Resources Faiyaz Siddiq Koya (front third from left), REALB board chairman Abdul Hassan (front fourth from left) with participants at the 2018 Real Estate Conference for Agents and Salespersons at Pearl Resort Fiji, Pacific Harbour on August 29, 2018.
August 31
14:34 2018

The Financial Intelligence Unit has so far investigated three cases of properties purchased using criminal proceeds.

This was highlighted by Razim Buksh, director, Financial Intelligence Unit at the Reserve Bank of Fiji while presenting at the 2018 Real Estate Conference for Agents and Salespersons at Pearl Resort Fiji.

Minister for Industry, Trade and Tourism, Lands and Mineral Resources Faiyaz Siddiq Koya officiated at the conference organised by the Real Estate Agents Licensing Board (REALB) yesterday.

Mr Buksh highlighted that the first case study involved a foreign national who wanted to set up a business in Fiji, the second case study involved an individual (Person A) was employed as an accountant at a resort while the third case study involved uncertainties regarding the owner of one particular property. (Case study summaries on Page 15)

Mr Buksh said: “We have seen typologies and we continue to see real estate properties are used as part of the money laundering process.

“Real estate agents are covered under the Financial Transactions Reporting Act/law as reporting institutions so all the obligations that apply to commercial banks also apply to them.

“Real estate agents must identify all their clients. They must establish the source of funds and they must also report all suspicious and dodgy clients to FIU including attempted transactions that may happen to real estate agents.”

He also highlighted the risks of the real estate sector and why it is attractive for money laundering.

Mr Koya while speaking to the real estate agents said: “Your role here is indeed important, as people will seek your advice for the purchase or the sale of their homes.

“It is also your duty as real estate agents to work within the ambits of the law and ensure that your industry is clean of unscrupulous dealers

“The industry players must be able to understand and grasp what qualities and ethical responsibilities they should acquire and hold in the performance of their business activities.

“The much-awaited Code of Ethics will address this and you must thoroughly understand what the Code provides in the carrying out of your duties in a professional manner.”

Regulatory authorities like the REALB and the Fijian Consumer and Competition Commission (FCCC), he said, will work closely to target misleading and deceptive behaviour in the property industry as a whole.

“Recent concerns highlight that some agents in the real estate industry are ignorant of their responsibilities under the laws, particularly in the area of advertising.

“There has been misleading and false representation to clients and incorrect or misleading advertisements and statements and is not in the client’s interest.

“Practice Guidelines on advertising, conduct between salespersons, agency agreement provisions will soon be drawn up for the industry as a form of guidance in these areas.

“The laws relating to false and misleading advertising, false and misleading representations are still in place and any breach of such provisions will lead to legal proceedings taken against the offender.

“As industry practitioners, you hold a critical role in providing truthful and correct information to potential vendors and the public at large, and through these advices, you assist them in finalising big life-time decisions regarding the sale or purchase of their homes.

“For some, these are once-in-a-lifetime commitments, and you play a very important and vital role in these decisions.

“As the Minister responsible for consumer protection, I would like to see all stakeholders in the real estate industry working together, familiar with the rules and procedures pertaining to property transactions and ensuring that consumers’ rights are protected.”

FCCC chief executive officer Joel Abraham said: “So far for the last financial year we have received over 445 tenancy complaints, they relate to everything from legal to non-issuance of agreement/ receipts to bonds.

“So these are basic issues as far as tenancy is concerned.

Mr Abraham presented on FCCC Act and the role of FCCC and he also highlighted issues consumers faced.

Feedback:  maraia.vula@fijisun.com.fj

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