Canada enlists realtors to fight money laundering

Mon Jun 23, 2008 4:23pm EDT
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By Patricia Launt

TORONTO (Reuters) - The Canadian government has enlisted realtors to help combat money laundering, asking them to collect personal data about their clients when a property deal closes, according to new federal regulations.

The rules, which came into effect on Monday, mean realtors must collect and verify a client's personal information, including name, address, date of birth and occupation, and ask for proof of identity, such as a driver's license or passport.

"If I've known you for 25 or 30 years and you want to sell your home or buy a home, I have to keep personal information for identification now," said Gerry Weir, president of the Ontario Real Estate Association, which represents 47,000 realtors.

The new requirement is part of legislation passed by the federal government in 2007 that covers a range of financial services. Officials said it is aimed at fighting money laundering, which is estimated to be in the billions of dollars annually.

"The record keeping and client ID will remove some of the anonymity that's possible in carrying out transactions and keep a record for later use should it be necessary, whether it's a money laundering investigation or a mortgage fraud investigation," said Peter Lamey, spokesman for the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada, a federal agency that fights money laundering and terrorist financing.

Previously, real estate brokers had to report transactions they saw as suspicious or ones that involved more than C$10,000 in cash.

Canada's real estate industry has six months to inform customers and some 96,000 brokers and agents about the new rules before fines and penalties come into effect on January 1, 2009. The Canadian Real Estate Association said its members completed half a million real estate transactions in 2007.

(Editing by Janet Guttsman)