The FSA has secured a summary judgment in the High Court against Stephen Watkins, who traded as Consolidated Land UK, for illegally selling land to consumers.
The judgment, which was handed down by the court without a full trial, orders Watkins to make an interim repayment of £920,000 to his victims via the FSA.
Watkins has also been banned for life from selling plots of land.
Watkins sold plots of agricultural UK land, much of which was subject to planning restrictions, for over £11m and made a significant profit. He was stopped by an initial injunction which was obtained by the FSA in 2010.
Watkins’ customers were told by his sales staff that he would seek planning permission for them and help them to resell the land at a profit.
The regulator says that Watkins had no intention of seeking permission or helping his purchasers, many of whom paid him their life savings.
The FSA does not regulate the sale of land but land banking amounts to a collective investment, which requires FSA authorisation. As Watkins was never authorised by the FSA, his land sales were illegal.
The FSA first took High Court action against a land banking firm – UK Land Investments Limited – in 2008 and most recently obtained a High Court winding-up order against Plott UK Limited, another land banking operation, in June 2011.
The regulator is pursuing six other High Court cases against other land banking operations and is investigating several more.
FSA acting director of enforcement and financial crime Tracey McDermot says: “As this and many other recent and ongoing cases show, the FSA is not afraid to mount complex court proceedings, both criminal and civil, to protect consumers and seek redress from unauthorised persons.”