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US flags early 2024 for new rule targeting real estate money laundering

FILE PHOTO: The U.S Treasury building in Washington.

(Reuters) -The U.S. Treasury Department on Monday said its Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) unit is planning to propose a long-awaited rule aimed at curbing money laundering in real estate in early 2024.

The regulator is also aiming to issue a notice of proposed rulemaking that would require investment advisers flag suspicious transactions to regulators.

THE TAKE

The proposal, which FinCEN was previously slated to unveil this year, is expected to require real estate professionals report the identities of the beneficial owners of companies buying real estate in cash to the regulator.

Anti-corruption advocates have been pushing for years for regulators to close a loophole they say allows criminals to hide money in U.S. real estate.

THE CONTEXT

While banks have long been required to understand the source of customer funds and report suspicious transactions, no such rules exist nationwide for the real estate industry. Criminals have for decades anonymously hidden ill-gotten gains in real estate, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said earlier this year.

The existing regulatory regime for real estate is easy to skirt, anti-corruption advocates have said.

KEY QUOTE

The proposal "will be will be an important step toward bringing greater transparency to this sector," the agency said in a statement.

"Treasury is also considering next steps with regard to addressing the illicit finance risks associated with the U.S. commercial real estate sector."

KEY QUOTE

"This long-delayed step would plug a gaping loophole in our anti-money laundering rules to make sure that drug traffickers, Russian oligarchs, and environmental criminals can't hide their wealth in U.S. real estate," said Ian Gary, executive director the Financial Accountability and Corporate Transparency (FACT) Coalition.

(Reporting by Chris Prentice and Luc Cohen, editing by Deepa Babington)

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