The FSA has fined and banned two chartered accountants for legal firm Sedley Richard Laurence Voulters’ involvement with a boiler room scam.
Paolo Maranzana was fined £105,000 and has been banned from working in financial services, and Laurence Finger was fined £35,000 and has been banned from being a money laundering reporting officer. SRLV, which was authorised by the FSA, was fined £163,140.
Maranzana was the relationship partner for NS and Finger was SRLV’s money laundering reporting officer.
In May 2008, Natrocell Shareholders instructed SRLV to assist with fund raising by receiving and dispersing money through its bank accounts and providing company secretarial and registrar services through its sister company.
To assist with the fund raising, NS used the services of overseas firms, which were not authorised by the FSA, to sell shares in NS to investors. These firms were share fraud operators, known as “boiler rooms”.
The boiler rooms contacted at least 1,262 potential investors. They paid over £2.5m into bank accounts operated by SRLV and significant sums were paid out on the instructions of NS as commission to various boiler rooms rather than going to NS.
The FSA says the boiler rooms would not have been able to operate effectively without the help of SRLV.
Maranzana and Finger agreed to settle at an early stage and therefore qualified for a 30 per cent discount under the FSA’s executive settlement procedures.
FSA managing director of enforcement and financial crime Margaret Cole (pictured) says: “Authorised firms and their employees have an important role to play in combating financial crime. This means that they cannot turn a blind eye when they see warning signs that their clients might be involved in financial crime. In this case, the failures by SRLV, Finger and Maranzana to carry out their responsibilities had an impact on consumers who have probably lost their money by investing through boiler rooms.”
An SRLV spokesman says the issue was a one-off and the FSA has never called into question the honesty of the firm orMaranzana and Finger.
He says: “The FSA’s decision relates to events of two years ago in respect of Natrocell Limited. It is a former client of the firm, for whom Paolo Maranzana, a former partner, had been responsible.
“The firm did not provide audit, accounting or taxation services to Natrocell during the period, only company secretarial services and access to a client account. The firm was not involved in the sale or promotion of shares.”