FCA calls on land banking scheme victims to get in contact

The FCA has urged members of the public who invested in an unauthorised land banking scheme, and who may be eligible to receive some of their money back, to get in contact with the regulator.

Between late 2009 and May 2011, members of the public invested approximately £3m in an unauthorised collective investment scheme established and operated by Synergy Land Group and its director, Samuel Exall.

Synergy used high pressure sales techniques to persuade members of the public to buy small plots of land from two larger sites which were marketed as Cheltenham Manor. The group promised investors that it would obtain planning permission for the sites and negotiate with a developer in order to realise a large profit for individual investors. These arrangements, according to the FCA, meant that Synergy and Exall were carrying on business as a collective investment scheme (CIS).

The Synergy land banking scheme was investigated by the FCA and in June 2011, the regulator commenced civil action against Synergy and Exall, resulting in the FCA obtaining orders freezing their assets and stopping the unlawful activity.

Exall was subsequently prosecuted by the City of London Police for conspiracy to commit fraud relating to his involvement in several land banking schemes and in October 2016, he was convicted and sentenced to four years in prison. He was also disqualified from acting as a company director for seven years.

The FCA has recently recovered a sum of money following the realisation of assets which Exall was ordered to sell, which the regulator is required to distribute to investors who purchased plots of land in the scheme.

“If you believe you were an investor in this unauthorised scheme, please get in contact with us,” said FCA executive director of enforcement and market oversight, Mark Steward. “Although we will only be able to return a small sum to eligible investors, we are keen to ensure that as many investors as possible benefit from our work to secure and realise assets.”

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