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Eight charged with landbanking fraud

 The Financial Conduct Authority has charged eight men with landbanking fraud and carrying out a regulated activity without authorisation.

The offences relate to the period between August 2008 and November 2011 and arise out of Operation Cotton, an FCA investigation into landbanking firms.

Scott Crawley, Daniel Forsyth, Ross Peters, Aaron Petrou, Ricky Mitchie, Dale Walker, Adam Hawkins and Brendan Daley have been bailed to attend City of London Magistrates Court on 10 May.

Walker, who is a solicitor at Dale R Walker Solicitors, has also been charged with money laundering and Forsyth has been charged with providing false information to the FSA.

The three firms involved in Operation Cotton are Plott UK, European Property Investments and Stirling Alexander. The regulator says these companies are believed to have taken over £5m from UK investors between 2008 and 2011.

Plott UK and EPI faced compulsory winding-up orders in June 2011 and December 2012, respectively, after the FSA pursued civil action.

Landbanking firms divide land into smaller plots to sell to investors on the basis that once it is available for development it will soar in value. But the land is often in areas of natural beauty or historical interest, with little chance of it being built on.

PMI Independent Financial Advisers director John Stewart says: “This could be the tip of the iceberg and there could be many more landbanking fines to come from the FCA.”



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