Miami-Dade County

County commissioners object to extra scrutiny over Miami money-laundering

A target of scrutiny for money laundering through luxe real estate. The Miami skyline seen from the Port of Miami on Wednesday, May 13, 2015.
A target of scrutiny for money laundering through luxe real estate. The Miami skyline seen from the Port of Miami on Wednesday, May 13, 2015. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

Amid global attention on money laundering through Miami real estate, Miami-Dade commissioners made a request Tuesday to Washington: stop singling out Miami for scrutiny over money laundering.

In the symbolic resolution, commissioners officially “express concerns” about Treasury Department regulations singling out Miami-Dade and Manhattan as two areas requiring extra disclosure of buyers paying at least $1 million in cash for real estate. The Miami Herald cited the regulations in its recent “Secret Shell Game” series on the Panama Papers, a massive leak of documents tied to offshore shell companies that have been the subject of a global investigative report by journalists around the world.

Sponsor Sally Heyman had filed the item weeks ago, well before the series began on Sunday. She argued disclosure rules imposed on Miami-Dade and Manhattan in January should be spread to other luxe real estate markets up and down the coast. “I think full disclosure is good — for everybody,” she said.

Her district includes affluent condo towers on the county’s coast, and she said she’s seeing real estate agencies in Broward and Palm Beach try to siphon luxury business away from Miami with marketing that says: “Come buy our coastline, we don’t ask questions.”

Heyman’s resolution passed the 13-member commission with only three no votes, by Chairman Jean Monestime and commissioners Daniella Levine Cava and Barbara Jordan.

This [Panama Papers] series really helps to showcase what a haven we are for ill-gotten gains. It’s also been detrimental for our housing market, because it has driven up the prices.

Miami-Dade Cmmissioner Daniella Levine Cava

Both Levine Cava and Jordan cited the Panama Papers reports in the Herald as reasons for concern. “This series really helps to showcase what a haven we are for ill-gotten gains,” Levine Cava said. “It’s also been detrimental for our housing market, because it has driven up the prices.”

The rules require real estate companies to disclose the individuals behind shell companies paying at least $1 million in cash for properties in Miami-Dade and $3 million in Manhattan. The new rules expire in August, when the Treasury Department said it will consider the next steps.

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