Property, e.g. the buying and selling of an interest in all types of land and property, be it residential, commercial, industrial or agricultural, can be seen as an investment giving an appearance of respectability. It is also the largest purchase most people would make in their lifetime, therefore offering the largest opportunity of moving proceeds of crime. Very often property purchases are made by using relatives or other agents to disguise a property portfolio.
Renovation or conversion of a property can lead to further opportunities to launder funds, such as using a less than legitimate building firm who also needs cash, also increasing the value of the investment.
Properties can be used for other criminal activities such as benefit fraud, bogus buy to let schemes, disguising proceeds as rents, and especially in rented property, cannabis farms, for which over 6,000 prosecutions took place in 2008.
Borrowing to finance land or property transactions through financial products such as mortgages is a common tool in money laundering. The initial large capital input is from a legitimate source such as a bank or building society and the relatively small monthly repayments can be made from funds from illegitimate activities.
The picture in this section is from a house in an affluent part of Derbyshire, almost every square foot from the attic to the hall in the Nottingham Road property had been turned over to plants. Commercial cannabis cultivation just like this is everywhere.
Tons of cannabis is being produced in places with high-quality housing. They avoid the social exclusion areas which attract a lot of police attention and go for a quiet neighbourhood where people don’t necessarily know a great deal about each other. These criminals can afford to set up in places where homes typically fetch between £500,000 and £750,000. It is such a cash-rich crop.