FCA bans six men over £4.3m landbanking Ucis scam

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The FCA has banned six individuals from any regulated activity after they took part in an unauthorised collective investment scheme.

The regulator first charged the men with landbanking fraud and carrying out a regulated activity without authorisation in 2013.

Scott Crawley, Daniel Forsyth, Adam Hawkins, Ross Peters, Aaron Petrou and Dale Walker were found to have operated unauthorised investment schemes through three companies: Plott UK, European Property Investments and Stirling Alexander.

110 investors lost £4.3m in the schemes, which were operated without clearance from the FCA.

In 2015, Crawley, Walker, Forsyth, Petrou and Peters were sentenced to a combined 26 years in prison after a court found that they had engaged in a landbanking scam by selling agricultural land to investors at “vastly inflated” prices with the promise of substantial profits.

Walker, who acted as a solicitor for the scheme, took nearly £900,000 in personal profits from the scheme.

Landbanking, the practice where companies cut up and sell land to investors with the promise of an increase in value once it is developed, has been the subject of one of the largest FCA investigations to date: Operation Cotton.

The land is often left undeveloped because of legal or historical reasons, leaving investors out of pocket.

In this case, potential investors were cold-called for patches of land the companies did not yet own.

The FCA says: “Using sales scripts, misleading promotional material, and high-pressure sales techniques they lied about the current and future value of the land. People were persuaded to purchase land at a vastly inflated price, on the false promise of a substantial profit.”