Following a prosecution initiated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), eight men have been convicted for their part in running an unauthorised collective investment scheme.

The participants have collectively received immediate prison sentences of 26 years, after some 110 investors lost a total of £4.3 million in the scheme.

The scheme was operated through Plott Investments Ltd (later known as Plott UK Ltd), European Property Investments (UK) Ltd and Stirling Alexander Ltd.

The companies offered investors the opportunity to purchase agricultural land, with a promise that its value would rise significantly. Investors were duped into paying vastly inflated prices for the land, and none of the investors ever saw a return on their investment. In some cases, the companies did not actually own the land they were offering.

The sentences handed out to the participants were:

• Scott Crawley – eight years imprisonment
• Dale Walker and Ross Peters – five and a half years imprisonment each
• Aaron Petrou – five years imprisonment
• Daniel Forsyth – two years imprisonment
• Brendan Daley – a 15 month jail sentence, suspended for two years, plus four months under an electronic curfew
• Ricky Mitchie – four months imprisonment, suspended for 18 months

Sentencing of Adam Hawkins has been adjourned.

Mr Petrou and Mr Peters pleaded guilty, and received 30% reductions in their sentences as a result, while the others were convicted by a jury.

Mr Forsyth’s sentence includes an additional 15 months in jail for lying to the FCA during a compelled interview. Otherwise, the offences for which the men were convicted included conspiracy to defraud, possession of criminal property and carrying on regulated activities without FCA authorisation.

Mr Walker, the solicitor to the scheme, personally received £900,000 of the proceeds of the scheme into his bank accounts.

Six of the men – Mr Walker, Mr Forsyth, Mr Petrou, Mr Peters, Mr Crawley and Mr Daley – have been disqualified from acting as a director.

Passing sentence, Judge Leonard QC said the scheme was:

“a subtle and cruel fraud.”

Georgina Philippou, acting director of enforcement and market oversight at the FCA, said of the case:

“The FCA will take strong action, through both the civil and criminal courts, against those who operate illegal investment schemes and those who assist them like solicitors. People put their homes and retirements at risk on the back of promises of high returns that were never going to be realised. The severity of the sentences shows how seriously the courts view this kind of offending.”
The two lessons to be learnt from this case are: firstly that FCA authorisation is required to carry out regulated activities, and secondly that firms and individuals must be totally open and honest in all dealings with the FCA.

The information shown in this article was correct at the time of publication. Articles are not routinely reviewed and as such are not updated. Please be aware the facts, circumstances or legal position may change after publication of the article.