'Compensation for victims' as FCA secures £2.2m confiscation orders, says expert

Out-Law News | 26 May 2017 | 5:15 pm | 1 min. read

Victims of a failed unauthorised collective investment scheme (UCIS) can expect to receive about 40% of their investment back after the regulator secured two final confiscation orders from some of the major players in the scheme.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) investigation, known as Operation Cotton, led to the convictions of eight men for their roles in the scam, which involved the sale of agricultural land at vastly inflated prices to investors by way of cold-calling. Around £5 million was invested in the scheme on the false promise of substantial profits, which never materialised, according to the FCA.

The land banking scheme was run though three companies: Plott Investments Ltd, European Property Investments (UK) Ltd, and Stirling Alexander Ltd. A total of £2,195,496 will ultimately be confiscated from the eight individuals: Scott Crawley; solicitor Dale Walker; and salesmen Brendan Daley, Daniel Forsyth, Adam Hawkins, Ricky Mitchie, Ross Peters and Aaron Petrou.

Two of the individuals have satisfied their confiscation orders in full, according to the FCA. If the others do not make the required payments within a specified amount of time, they could face prison sentences. One of the individuals, Ross Peters, was committed to prison for six months in April 2015 by disposing of assets in breach of a restraint order obtained by the FCA to preserve the value of their assets pending the conclusion of confiscation proceedings.

Financial regulation expert Michael Ruck of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said that the two final confiscation orders "draw to a conclusion a significant and successful operation for the FCA".

"Whilst prosecutions such as these often take some time to conclude it must be a feather in the FCA's cap that it has secured some compensation for the victims of this scheme," he said.

"The key is now to see if the FCA can push on and secure more convictions of this type and increase compensation levels for the victims in similar circumstances. Lessons will have been learned by the FCA during its investigation and prosecution which will need to be combined with increased resource if the FCA is to continue its increased focus on successful criminal investigations and prosecutions," he said.

Judge Leonard QC at the Central Criminal Court has ordered that all sums confiscated from the individuals in this case be paid out in compensation to those that suffered a "quantifiable loss" as a result of their crimes.