Six companies that scammed the public into investing in plots of agricultural land have been wound up by the High Court, following an investigation by the Insolvency Service.
The companies falsely claimed they would obtain planning permission to dramatically increase the value of the land.
The companies were:
- Green Crest Homes, in Halifax
- JCB Marketing, Beverley
- Brand Trader (formerly known as Green Crest Homes), Formby
- Sutton Wells, Horwich
- Curved Ball, Horwich
- NSS-Operations, Horwich
The companies traded from premises at 70 High St, Newton-Le-Willows. Collectively they operated a landbanking scheme selling small plots of land at a site which they described to investors as the Pennine View Project in Liversedge, West Yorkshire.
Prospective investors were told that Green Crest Homes was seeking planning permission for residential development of the land and once obtained, the value of an average investment of £11,000 could increase by more than ten times, to as much as £120,000.
The Insolvency Service investigation found that the companies had made no application for planning permission to develop the land and, even if they had done, it was extremely unlikely that permission would have been granted.
At least 43 plots were sold to investors. Green Crest Homes and Brand Trader received the sale proceeds, while Sutton Wells, JCB Marketing and Curved Ball acted as marketing companies for Green Crest Homes.
Previously the marketing companies had performed a similar role for another landbanking company CLS & Partners, which took almost £1m from investors in exchange for plots of land at Ossett, Wakefield, and was shut down in May 2012.
The service's recent investigation found that Curved Ball had received funds from landbanking schemes run by CLS & Partners, as well as the Pennine View Project and several others.
In total, Curved Ball had received more than £1.8m from the landbanking schemes but all of these funds had been dissipated, and the company had been dissolved on the application of its directors. No adequate records were produced to explain where the money had gone.
NSS-Operations provided administrative services to Green Crest Homes and CLS & Partners.
Colin Cronin, investigation supervisor at the Insolvency Service, said: "The Insolvency Service will take firm action against companies and their directors when the public are deliberately misled in this manner.
"The advice to anyone who is approached to invest in land in this way is to take time to reflect, seek independent advice and research the company in question. If a scheme sounds too good to be true, it usually is."