SUNBIZ

Real Estate Agents Assured Whistleblower Protection

Real estate agents have been encouraged to report any questionable dealings from their clients immediately to the Financial Intelligence Unit in order to combat money laundering. And in doing so,
28 Jul 2016 10:59
Real Estate Agents Assured Whistleblower Protection
Financial Intelligence Unit director, Razim Buksh (left) with Solicitor General, Sharvada Sharma, during a recent Real Estate Licensing Board Workshop at the Novotel Suva Lami Bay. Photo: REALB

Real estate agents have been encouraged to report any questionable dealings from their clients immediately to the Financial Intelligence Unit in order to combat money laundering.

And in doing so, the Financial Transactions Reporting Act provides whistleblower protection to the real estate agents for reporting and divulging any information to the FIU.

This has been stressed by FIU director, Razim Buksh, who has emphasised the real estate sector in Fiji now operates in a regulated environment.

It has been stressed that case studies have been identified in Fiji showing real estate activity is being used for money laundering and related predicate.

Thus, our real estate activity here has been used for financial crimes such as unexplained wealth and tax evasion.

“Thus, the sector needs to understand and implement relevant laws and policies and are accountable to authorities for their activities,” Mr Buksh said.

“The real estate agents should engage with the regulatory authorities to take the industry forward and to create a culture of compliance and support.

“Real estate agents should understand their legal obligations to identify their clients, know the source of settlement funds and immediately report to the FIU any questionable dealings.

“The name of the reporting real estate agent and the name of their employer will be treated in strict confidence.”

At the same time, Mr Buksh stressed severe penalties apply for any non-compliance of the FTR ACT by the real estate agents.

“A real estate business can be fined up to $150,000 for non-compliance,” he said.

 

Significance

Mr Buksh said the reason for such protection was given our real estate sector is of special importance to our economy, and in particular, our financial system.

“Money laundering is a complex process of making illegally gained assets (dirty money) appear legitimate,” he said.

“The objective of laundering dirty money is to disguise the true origin of the assets and to prevent the construction of an audit trail leading back to the proceeds of the original crime and its perpetrators.”

FIU was the designated Anti-Money Laundering Regulator and Superior for real estate sector in Fiji and the FIU has powers to enforce compliance for breaches.

Edited by: RACHNA LAL

Feedback:  rachnal@fijisun.com.fj

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