Judge Put In The Picture Over £1m Art Scam

Lisa Smith, BA (Hons), CeFA

Two companies were wound up in court over a multimillion art scam after their latest brush with the law.

Gem Tobin Ltd, based in Warrington, Cheshire, and York-based Dionysus Design Services Ltd, were wound-up in the public interest at the High Court in Manchester.

District Judge Ranj Matharu ruled the companies were fronts for fraud after hearing how they received £900,000 after persuading investors to part with cash for works by leading artists which were fakes.

The scam came to light when the government’s Insolvency Service investigated tow other companies for a similar fraud – Halifax Mannin Ltd and Hey Design Services Ltd.

These companies had swallowed £1.4 million conned from art investors.

No co-operation

The Insolvency Service believes that Gem Tobin and Dionysus Design Services took over the scam when Halifax Mannin and Hey Design Services were wound up.

Investigators do not know how the funds have been spent as the crooks in control of the companies failed to co-operate with the inquiry.

The Insolvency Service believes crooks in Spain or Morocco trading as Asset Consulting Services or Asset Consulting Group are behind all the companies.

David Hope, Chief Investigator for the Insolvency Service, said:  “These companies have acted cynically in accepting almost a million pounds from members of the public, many of whom are elderly and vulnerable people, with no evidence to indicate that the investment being offered had any value or was likely to generate any return for the investors. This continues a pattern of behaviour that was identified in relation to other companies.

Don’t invest, warns watchdog

“Thankfully, the courts have now put a stop to their activities, preventing further harm, and anyone approached by, or thinking about making an investment with, Asset Consulting Services or Asset Consulting Group should read the warning issued by the Financial Conduct Authority and take independent financial advice before making any decisions.”

The Official Receiver is handling the winding up of both companies.

Consumer watchdog the Financial Conduct Authority warned about the activities of Asset Consulting as far back as September 2017. The firm is not authorised to give investment advice.

Asset Consulting is also thought to use the name Alternative Investments to cold call potential investors with hard sell tactics.

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