House prices in London are being pushed up by foreign criminals buying expensive properties to launder cash, it has been warned.
Senior investigators have raised concerns over the number of homes registered to complex offshore companies.
Donald Toon, director of the National Crime Agency’s economic crime command, told The Times he believes the London property market has been “skewed” by laundered cash.
And he said estate agents should be reporting any suspicious activity.
His claim is backed up by the increase in the amount of money generated by a tax on properties purchased by companies, trusts and investment funds, rather than individuals.
In the last three months alone, the Treasury has netted £150m from the levy.
When the tax was first introduced in 2013/14, it raised £100m from 3,990 houses.
Mr Toon told the newspaper: “Prices of high end property are being artificially driven up by the desire of overseas criminals to sequester their assets here in the UK.
“What they are doing is distorting the market.
“If they (estate agents) have a suspicion that there may be money laundering involved then they absolutely should be submitting a suspicious activity report.
“You are at risk of committing a criminal offence if you do not do that.”