Fine Art Scam Shut By Courts After Brush With The Law

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Two companies involved in a £1.4 million fraudulent art investment have been closed after a brush with the law.

After a flood of complaints, Halifax Mannin Ltd, based in Trawsfynydd, Wales, and Hey Design Services Ltd, of Kingstanding, Birmingham, were wound-up in the public interest at the High Court, Manchester.

The court closed the companies on the grounds they traded with a lack of commercial probity, having been incorporated or used for fraud, with a sole purpose of receiving money from investors who were misled or bullied into making an investment.

The government’s Insolvency Service mounted an investigation into the business activities of both firms, but failed to find out how they traded or where they were based.

Spanish connection

They did track down payments to the companies from investors persuaded to part with their cash in return for works of art by renowned painters.

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Between October 2017 and October 2018, Halifax Mannin received close to £250,000, while Hey Design Services secured just over £1.1 million in funds.

However, both companies appeared to be managed by another company based in Spain.

Asset Consulting Services, which has offices in Canary Wharf, London and Hong Kong, is connected to the two fraudulent investment firms.

The company still has a web presence, but is subject to warnings on the Financial Conduct Authority watch-list for advisers offering unauthorised investments.

Elderly and vulnerable victims

The investigators could not piece together what has happened to the money as the directors failed to co-operate with them.

David Hope, chief investigator for the Insolvency Service, said: “Despite accepting more than a £1 million from the public, including elderly and vulnerable people, there is no evidence to indicate that the investment had any value or was likely to generate any return for the investors.

“Thankfully the courts have a put a stop to these companies, preventing anyone else from coming to harm, and I would encourage anyone approached by, or thinking about making, an investment with, Asset Consulting Services to read the warning issued by the FCA and to take independent financial advice before making any investment decision.”

Would-be investors posted in social media that salesmen from Asset Consulting were aggressive and threatened legal action if victims did not buy art from them after repeated phone calls.

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