UK: London Real Estate Agents Offer Tips to ‘Criminals’, Claims Documentary

A documentary to air tonight on British TV will show leading London real estate agents offering to help to advise undercover reporters posing as corrupt Russian officials to invest their criminal gains into high-end property in London.

©Channel4/Amos Pictures

Footage released in advance of the broadcast by Channel 4 and Amos Pictures shows a heavily accented undercover reporter with a senior figure from a well-known London real estate agency at a multi-million pound property in London’s wealthy Kensington district.

The undercover reporter tells the agent, “I’m a Russian government minister… now I have [only] a very small salary.” He then says “a contract here and a contract there and little bit comes to my pocket… needless to say the money for this comes straight out of the government budget. If the hole is ever discovered… if my name is linked to that hole, disaster, discretion is the absolute priority; nobody can see my name on any kind of list.”

The real estate agent offers to give advice “on any way of getting around that,” and when asked offers to put the reporter in touch “with a good law firm so they’ll be able to give advice on what to do and what not to do.”

According to Channel 4, a spokesperson for the estate agents’ firm said that they had discussed their “concerns with a reputable firm of London solicitors and sought their advice. Had a formal offer to purchase the property been made, the company’s anti-money laundering checks and procedures would have followed.”

The documentary, made by anti-money laundering campaigner Roman Borisovich and Ukrainian investigative journalist and OCCRP partner Nataliya Sedletska, examines the booming high-end property market in London, which often involves foreign buyers masking their acquisitions behind untraceable off-shore companies.

In June, OCCRP revealed that the family of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev owns a 10,500-square-foot London mansion worth more than US$ 25 million. OCCRP wrote back then “Today as president, Aliyev’s salary is about US$ 230,000 per year, raising an interesting question: how can he possibly afford such a large house in one of London’s most expensive neighborhoods?”

The program will be broadcast Wednesday at 10 pm,  GMT+1 (BST).