Investors are still being hoodwinked by unscrupulous scammers pushing land banking schemes with another three firms being shut down after an investigation.
The Insolvency Service acted after discovering the three firms had continued running a scam which had been set-up by Century Land – which had been previously closed down for misleading investors – and for flogging dubious carbon credits.
The investigation revealed that the firms misled investors into buying carbon credits and land after promising huge profits despite the fact that the investments were nearly worthless.
The latest tranche of closed firms brings the total of six connected companies which have run scams – often hitting the same duped investors.
The High Court has now liquidated Hildon Property Limited on grounds of public interest after the firm marketed plots in Bury, Lancashire, and in Hertfordshire which had been previously pushed by Century Land.
The court also liquidated Raincode Ltd, owners of the land in Hertfordshire and Hildon Green Energy Markets Limited for promoting near worthless investments in carbon credits for projects in Peru and China.
The court was told that the business involved Carl Ballard, Andrew Rowe and Nick Sharp who had been involved with the defunct Century Land and had promoted 13 plots to rake in more than £10 million.
Their activities were criticised as a fraud by the High Court – and even compared their investments as being like someone offering a sports car but without the engine.
Chris Mayhew, investigations supervisor at the Insolvency Service, said: “We have strong enforcement powers and we will not hesitate in using them to take action against those running companies whose activities can devastate the lives of vulnerable investors.”
He said that Hildon carried on with an ‘unscrupulous’ land banking business which had been run by Century Land after side-stepping the installation of a provisional liquidator.
Raincode, he added, played a crucial part in the ‘nefarious scheme’ aimed at mis-selling plots of undeveloped land as an investment opportunity.
His harshest criticism was saved for Hildon Green.
Mr Mayhew said: “Soon after being formed in April 2011, the firm claimed it was a leader in global carbon management, which is a remarkable achievement.
“However, the firm had no investment expertise and misled investors into investing and enriching itself.”
The Financial Conduct Authority regularly receives complaints from investors about schemes to divide land into small plots on the basis that once it gets planning permission it will soar in value but often the land has restrictions and will never be built on.
To help investors spot the potential for trouble with such schemes, the Land Registry has a useful guide. http://www.landregistry.gov.uk/public/guides/public-guide-21