Channel 4 in London has done an experiment on estate agent reactions to potential buyers using obviously ill-gotten gains. The results were predictable:
In a documentary called From Russia With Cash, to be broadcast on Wednesday, two undercover reporters pose as an unscrupulous Russian government official called “Boris” and his mistress “Nastya” whom he wants to purchase an upmarket property in London for.
The couple – Russian anti-corruption campaigner Roman Borisovich and Ukrainian investigative reporter Natalia Sedletska – view five properties ranging in price from £3m to £15m, on the market with five different west London agents, in Kensington, Chelsea and Notting Hill.
Despite being made aware they are dealing with ill-gotten gains, the estate agents agree to continue with a potential purchase. In several instances the estate agents recommend law firms to help a buyer hide his identity.
One estate agent names a “very, very good lawyer … the last person I put them was another minister of a previous Soviet state” in a deal worth £10m.
The estate agents suggest that in the capital secretive purchases of multimillion pound houses are common. One claims that 80% or more of his transactions are with international, overseas-based buyers and “50 or 60%” of them are conducted in “various stages of anonymity … whether it be through a company or an offshore trust”.
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