A web of interlinked property companies that were behind a sophisticated £8 million property scam have been wound up in the public interest.
The companies were run from a single address – a former convent in Woodchester, just outside Stroud in Gloucestershire.
The scam was masterminded by bankrupt husband and wife team Matthew and Charlotte Roberts.
The plan was to convert the convent buildings into a luxury hotel and entertainment venue.
The couple also plotted to buy and develop property in Norway into an ‘eco resort’.
The Roberts set about raising almost £8 million from private investors. They told their victims who bought shares in the projects that their money would be safeguarded as the companies would own land and buildings at the two development sites.
However, the companies never owned the property.
Instead, the Roberts bought the convent with a bridging loan through a different company.
Investors were also promised a 10% annual return on their stake with a guaranteed 150% buy back on an investment of between three or five years. These were promises the Roberts failed to keep.
The projects were tagged as high-risk by the Roberts, who told their investors that they were not protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme.
A judge at the High Court in London was shown evidence by the government’s Insolvency Agency that proved only one property – a derelict barn – was available to provide security for investors and that other property allegedly transferred by the Roberts as detailed in brochures and documents remained with other companies.
The barns were later switched to another company without telling investors, leaving them with no security.
Land was bought in Norway for building the resort and more than 200 homes, although only one of five plots purchased had planning permission.
The two companies that raised money for the project are going through the insolvency process in Norway.
David Hill, chief investigator with the Insolvency Service, said: “I am very pleased to see that the court has called a halt to the unscrupulous activities of these companies. The Insolvency Service will continue to investigate and bring to a halt the activities of companies harming or about to harm the public by operating in this way.
“The companies have shown no regard for the law and a significant amount of money is irrecoverable.”