‘Self-centred and devious’ adviser sentenced in FCA prosecution of £1.4m investment scheme

Written by Adam Cadle

A corporate adviser who played a prime role in the operation of an investment scheme which led to investors losing just over £1.4m has been sentenced at Southwark Crown Court to a total of 3 and a half years’ imprisonment.

Samrat Bhandari is also disqualified from holding the position of director for 12 years.

In sentencing, Judge Loraine-Smith stated that Mr Bhandari had been “entirely self-centred and devious”, demonstrating “not a shred of regret” for what he had done nor any sympathy to the investors.

He described Bhandari using the enterprise as his “cash cow”. The Judge said “regulation it seems means nothing to you”.

Bhandari, who was convicted following a trial at Southwark Crown Court lasting 49 days, had offered to repay the investors in the scheme but later withdrew his offer in a move described by the judge as “another example of your manipulative nature”.

His sentence follows that of Dr Aleem Mirza, Michael Moore and Paul Moore who were also given sentences of imprisonment at an earlier hearing for their involvement in the investment scheme which attracted more than 300 investors.

Commenting on the case, FCA director of enforcement and market oversight Mark Steward said: “Bhandari was the controlling mind in this scheme and he deliberately abused his position as a corporate advisor to exploit hundreds of vulnerable investors for his personal gain. This prosecution by the FCA reflects our commitment to protect investors by bringing the operators of unauthorised investment schemes such as this to justice and the sentence shows how seriously the courts view this kind of offending.”

The FCA has already commenced confiscation proceedings against each defendant with a view to recovering from each the benefit they gained from their criminal conduct. In due course, the FCA will invite the Court to order that sums confiscated from the defendants are used to compensate the victims of their crimes.

Between 2009 and 2014, mainly elderly and vulnerable investors were targeted and mis-sold shares in Symbiosis Healthcare plc (‘Symbiosis’) through a combination of cold-calling, pressure sales and the publication of exaggerated promotional material. Symbiosis was set up by Dr Aleem Mirza and purported to be a successful company offering ‘healthcare solutions’ in Dubai and elsewhere in the world. In reality, the shares in the company were effectively worthless and investors lost a total of just over £1.4m in the scheme. Samrat Bhandari, as director of William Albert Securities Ltd, acted as corporate advisor to Symbiosis and organised the selling of Symbiosis shares, while brothers Michael and Paul Moore were part of a team of brokers.

The FCA was assisted in the investigation and prosecution by a number of other law enforcement and government agencies, including the City of London Police, as well as by a number of investors in the scheme.

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