Eight men including solicitor convicted after £4.3m landbanking scam

Eight men have finally been convicted for running landbanking scams in which 110 investors lost over £4.3m.

The case was brought by the Financial Conduct Authority which has spent £2.5m in its quest for justice.

The case was halted two years ago, just a month after the FCA brought charges, because of government cuts to legal aid which left five of the defendants not legally represented.

The FCA appealed against the court’s decision to halt the case, which was resumed last June.

It centred around the eight who ran three companies between 2008 and 2011: Plott Investments, which changed its name to Plott UK, European Property Investments (UK), and Stirling Alexander.

Salesmen cold-called potential investors to sell them agricultural land that the companies had bought for minimal amounts as well as land the companies did not own.

Using sales scripts, misleading promotional material, and high-pressure sales techniques they lied about the current and future value of the land.

People were persuaded to purchase land at a vastly inflated price, on the false promise of a substantial profit.

Scott Crawley, Dale Walker, Daniel Forsyth, Brendan Daley, Aaron Petrou, Ross Peters, Adam Hawkins and Ricky Mitchie have all now been convicted.

The convictions of Crawley, Walker, Forsyth, Petrou and Peters have to date led to sentences totalling 26 years’ immediate imprisonment.

The sentencing of Hawkins has been adjourned until a later date. Walker, Forsyth, Petrou, and Peters were disqualified as directors for periods ranging from five to ten years. Crawley and Daley had already been disqualified as directors following action taken by the Insolvency Service.

The sentencing of Crawley, Walker, Forsyth, Petrou, Peters and Daley took place in April, but can only now be reported due to the convictions on Friday last week of Hawkins sand Mitchie.

Mitchie was sentenced yesterday and Hawkins will be sentenced at a later date. Confiscation proceedings are being pursued against all defendants.

The defendants were convicted of various offences including conspiracy to defraud.

Peters also admitted being in contempt of court by breaching a restraint order obtained by the FSA. He breached the order by, among other things, dissipating over £237,000 from bank accounts and disposing of Rolex watches and two racehorses.

The solicitor to the scheme, Dale Walker, received nearly £900,000 of the proceeds of crime into his accounts, and was described by the Judge in sentencing remarks as having “deliberately frustrated and delayed the FCA’s investigations.” The Judge said that Walker’s conduct was worse because he was a solicitor.

In sentencing, Judge Leonard QC described the scheme as a “very substantial and deliberate fraud on the public.”

He stated that the operation was “a subtle and cruel fraud because it involves the concept of owning land, a commodity that the public are bound to think has value and on which they cannot lose and on which they can easily be persuaded that they can make very substantial profits.”


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