Hundreds of investors ploughed more than £5 million into a scam land banking company stand to win back just 40% of the cash they staked with fraudsters.
The investors paid the money to Plott Investments Ltd – later called Plott UK – European Property Investments (UK) Ltd and Stirling Alexander Ltd.
Telephone sales staff cold-called potential investors to offer them agricultural land sold for sums that far exceeded the purchase price paid by the fraudsters.
The companies also sold land they did not own between July 2008 and November 2011.
Around 110 investors were promised the land would generate massive profits that never materialised to encourage them to hand over their money.
Largest ever confiscation order
Judge Leonard QC, sitting at the Old Bailey, London, has ordered a £2.2 million confiscation order against the eight convicted defendants in the case.
The order is the largest City and investment watchdog the Financial Conduct Authority has applied for.
Mark Steward, the FCA’s Executive Director of Enforcement and Market Oversight said: “The FCA will continue to pursue those engaged in financial crime, including advisers and other professionals who facilitate misconduct or who launder its proceeds.
“We will also take action, wherever possible, to address the harm caused by misconduct, including taking action to strip illegal gains from defendants for the benefit of those who have suffered loss as a result.”
The operation was an unregulated collective investment scheme, which means investor cash is not protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme.
Racehorses and Rolex watches
The defendants lived a life of luxury on the proceeds of the scam.
One, Ross Peters, who must hand back £136,238, was jailed for six months after moving £237,000 from bank accounts, disposing of two Rolex watches and two racehorses.
The offenders were sentenced at an earlier hearing to a total of 20 years in prison, with some of the time suspended. They all face extra jail time if they fail to satisfy the confiscation orders.
At their sentencing, in June 2015 the judge described the group as a ‘very substantial and deliberate fraud’.