Real Estate

Real estate has long been the preferred choice of criminals for hiding ill-gotten gains, and manipulating property prices is one of the oldest known ways to transfer proceeds illegally between parties to a deal. Tax fraud schemes are often closely linked with these activities.

In addition, perpetrators of fraud have often been found posing as property professionals such as bogus solicitors through bogus law firms, or sometimes bogus branch offices of bona fide law firms. Reports to the SRA relating to bogus firms have doubled since 2012, with more than 700 reports per year in 2014 and 20151.

Changes in Land Registry practice have made it easier for fraudsters to register fraudulent transactions; changes such as dispensing with traditional paper land certificates and paper applications, with the Land Registry no longer requiring receipt of the original deeds.

Alongside these changes, however, the Land Registry has established a dedicated counter-fraud team which has, since September 2009, prevented frauds on over 200 applications representing properties valued in excess of £92m2.

Individuals are being targeted in property transactions when transferring completion monies. Other areas of threat we have advised on is the creation of false property investment opportunities, occasionally linked to pensions leading to individuals being defrauded out of thousands of pounds.

We have experience in advising clients in this sector on identifying and reducing their risks to fraud through assisting on investigations and in litigation.

1SRA news release 25 July 2016 “Bogus firms problem not going away as numbers double since 2012, says the SRA”
2Land Registry blog, “Property Fraud – all you need to know” (published 18 Dec 2015, figures updated Sept 2016)

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