Government institutions start consultations on the strengthening of the Estate Agents and Land Registration framework

August 28, 2019

The National Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) Committee, met with government institutions and the Estate Agents Board as part of a consultative process to review the framework governing the Estate Agents and the Land Registration. This follow concerns raised by the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) concerning the increasing number of unlicensed individuals purporting to undertake licensable activities as real estate agents.

This was to address growing concerns about unlicensed individuals who are continuously advertising the sale of properties on behalf of third parties without the required AML/CFT control measures, which may result in subjecting the country to increasing threats of money laundering, and undermine the efforts of the authorities to combat money laundering in the country.

In a Press Conference organised by the Ministry of Finance, Trade, Investment and Economic Planning, in collaboration with the Financial Intelligence Unit, FIU, and the Estate Agents Board, the Secretary of State for Finance, Trade, Investment and Economic Planning, Patrick Payet noted that there was a need to meet with the various institutions to update them on new developments in this sector and see how best to minimize existing risks. “We know there are a lot of unlicensed activities happening, and that some people selling their land for example are not necessarily doing it through registered estate agents. And during our discussions, we have agreed to review the framework governing the Estate Agents and the Land Registration”.

The first meeting to start the process, was held on Tuesday 20th August 2019, at Liberty House, led by the Secretary of State for Finance, Trade, Investment and Economic Planning, Mr. Patrick Payet. It was attended by the Principal Secretary for Lands, Mrs. Fanette Albert, and senior officials from the FIU, Attorney General’s Office, Estate Agents Board, Land Registry, Seychelles Licensing Authority, Seychelles Revenue Commission and Anti-Corruption Commission of Seychelles.

One of the proposals echoed by the authorities present was the need for a comprehensive review of the legislative framework governing the procedures for land registration, the administrative powers and function of the Estate Agents Board, as well as the activities of real estate agents. The aim is to strengthen the controls in place to mitigate the risks of money laundering by criminals, through the real estate sector. The need for legislative, regulatory and policy reforms in the sector comes at a time when Seychelles is reviewing several legislations to reinforce the country’s AML/CFT framework, in line with the recommendations of the second round of mutual evaluation conducted in 2018.

FIU has started a sensitisation campaign with estate agents, as well as the public in general on what is happening in this sector, and to be more vigilant. It was also pointed out that it is equally important that the notary, lawyers and other legal institutions be made aware of this process, as most of these cases are dealt with by their offices.

FIU Director, Richard Rampal, also present at the Press Conference, explained that, estate agents, car dealers and notaries, etc.. are considered as reporting entities under the Anti-Money Laundering Act, and it is their duty to know their clients, type of transaction taking place and source of funds to name a few. “Before we proceed with supervision and enforcement of the framework, we believe that education and sensitization should be done first, from 2019 to 2012, we will increase awareness programmes’.

There are at the moment, ten (10) estate agents in the country and they are all of Seychellois nationality. The Chairman of the Estate Agents Board, Pat Lablache, says that for the board to act on any grievances a complaint should be lodged to the board, but that it is the responsibility of estate agents to observe due diligence. “Estate Agents are obliged to report any suspicious cases, as a reporting entity”, he noted.

According to the SS Payet, there are some issues to be addressed in Seychelles’ Mutual Evaluation Report and the Cabinet of Ministers has recently approved the Action Plan. A number of laws will have to be amended, including the AML Act as well as other offshore laws. And based on the Mutual Evaluation Report, Seychelles needs to request a re-rating with the Eastern and Southern Africa Anti-Money Laundering Group, ESAAMLG. SS Payet says that by April 2021, Seychelles is expected to have reviewed all the required legislations that needed to be reviewed.

The different consultations and engagement with authorities and the private sector on proposals to amend the relevant legislations will continue in the coming weeks.

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