Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development has expressed displeasure at the mess in the real estate sector, noting that it is awash with unregistered, unqualified and unlicensed people posing as real estate agents.
If left uncontrolled, Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development Jean Kalilani feared the situation could fuel cases of money laundering and terrorist financing which could negatively impact on the domestic economy.
The minister lodged the complaint yesterday in Lilongwe during a stakeholders’ meeting aimed at discussing the Financial Crimes Act (FCA) for the real sector.
She said: “We have real estate agents who are unregistered, unqualified and unlicensed, and these are in multitudes.”
Kalilani said stories are told of people being duped by dubious real estate agents who are hard to trace.
The minister further decried that one other challenge is that some of the unlicensed real estate agents have got companies registered by the Registrar of Companies hence they feel empowered to operate their businesses.
On one hand, Kalilani said there is a law which requires real estate agents to have graduate degrees and be licensed.
The minister also said it was revealed during Cashgate—the plunder of resources at Capital Hill through dubious payments and false claims exposed in October 2013—that the real estate sector is where most money was laundered.
She said government is committed to fighting money laundering and terrorist financing unfolding in the real estate sector hence the establishment of the Financial Intelligence Authority and the enactment of the Financial Crimes Act in 2017.
FIA director general Atuweni Juwayeyi-Agbermodji agreed with the minister’s assertions later in an interview, saying the Financial Crimes Act requires that all reporting institutions plying their trade in the real estate sector must comply with their obligations.
In 2016, Malawi, in response to the recommendations of the Financial Action Taskforce, enacted the Money Laundering, Proceeds of Serious Crimes and Terrorist Financing Act which established the now defunct Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU).
In 2017, this Act was repealed and replaced by the Financial Intelligence Crimes Act which changed the name FIU to FIA. n