This just goes to show Its happening around the world.
A retired teacher from the Isle of Wight who fell victim to land banking scams has gone public to hit out at the legal system. He says it allowed tricksters to keep more than half a million pounds he lost as a result of investing in plots of land, believing salesmen’s claims that sites were ripe for development.
Philip Fryer, 70, bought land at Cheshunt in Hertfordshire, marketed by Complete Building Systems Limited, which also sold plots in Norwich and King’s Lynn.
The company was wound up in the High Court last December, with Insolvency Service investigator Chris Mayhew condemning it as a ‘rogue’ business.
He said: ‘Some investors were falsely told that unless they bought more plots, their existing plots would not be developed and would become recreational plots such as flower beds.’ They would then face bills for maintenance.
But by then, Fryer had already been approached by salesmen from a second company, Gilbert Webb Estates Limited.
It lied about being regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and told investors they could expect short-term gains of up to 400 per cent. It has also been wound up after a High Court hearing.
The judge Mr Registrar Baister said: ‘There was no genuine prospect of developing the land.’ Mayhew, of the Insolvency Service, added: ‘This was a bare-faced scam on pensioners who have lost out financially and otherwise, unlike those behind the company who peddled near worthless plots of land to the public for investment.’
The Insolvency Service has now won two more court cases, after tracing the land deals back to a pair of Liverpool-based companies, JDG Properties and Tithebarn Trading. The first firm was the actual owner of the land sold by Gilbert Webb Estates, while the second firm encouraged sales by appearing to be an interested property developer.
Both companies were run by Merseyside businessman Jon Farley Elster, who admitted in court that getting planning consent for the Cheshunt land would be like ‘winning the lottery’.
Ordering both his businesses to be shut down, the judge Ms Registrar Barber condemned some of Elster’s evidence as ‘frankly incredible’, adding that he was ‘playing a part in a dishonest scheme which made a short-term gain for him and his companies at the expense of the public’.
One man deeply involved in the scams, Carl Ballard, has been banned from acting as a company director for the next 14 years. Although evidence of fraudulent claims was given in court, the Insolvency Service has no power to prosecute or to order compensation payments.
The Mail on Sunday reported last week that the private firm running the Action Fraud hotline for the Government had collapsed, leaving only a few staff to man telephones and its website. Local police around the country frequently refuse to accept fraud complaints, referring victims to Action Fraud instead.
Fryer is left feeling a frustrated victim facing massive losses. He said: ‘Action Fraud is a joke. It should be called Inertia Fraud.’
After he gave the police a wealth of records, correspondence and bank details about the scams, nothing was done.
‘They could have so easily gone in there and cleaned it up, and possibly got hold of some of our money before it was laundered or sent abroad. There are seven or eight of us [victims] involved in this. It’s probably about £1.5 million or £2 million that’s been stolen from us.
‘I suppose that because of a lack of funding, only a very small proportion of cases are followed up.’
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First reported by the http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/ website.