The charges follow the arrest of six people after the Serious Fraud Office and Police investigators swooped on 19 properties yesterday.
Edward Ormus Sharington Davenport, 43, Martin Peter Riley, 62, and David Martin Layard Horsfall, 54, were charged yesterday at City of London Magistrates Court.
Three others – two men and one woman – were also arrested and released without charge, although one of these men was bailed until January 12, 2010, while those charged are due to appear at Southwark Crown Court on February 2, 2010.
The estimated value of the suspected fraud identified so far is approximately £12m.
The investigation relates to a suspected advance fee and commercial rent fraud. Gresham Ltd and Gresham Finance (London) Ltd offered loans of up to £250m and applicants were charged between £5,000 and £50,000 for due diligence checks. Applicants were then asked to pay a security deposit of between 1 and 5 per cent of the loan amount.
The SFO says the suspects were involved in a retail property renting business operating as Gresham Ltd, Park Regent Ltd and Castlereagh London.
The suspects also used a complex array of company names in their dealings, including 45 Oxford St Ltd, Alliance Trust, Renaissance Trust, Cutting and Company (Investments) Ltd and Paul Street Media Ltd.
This investigation arose from complaints made by victims to the local Police and the Serious Fraud Office and searches were conducted with the assistance of the City of London and Cheshire Police. Potential victims are thought to be located in Austria, Turkey, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Italy, Romania, Dubai and other countries.
Enquiries are being extended to cover allegations of rent fraud. This involved Gresham Limited leasing a building for several years, obtaining a rent free period in the process. They then sublet the premises and failed to pay rent as agreed to the owner.
The SFO points out that Gresham Finance (London) Ltd is not to be confused with Gresham Finance Ltd, nor is Castlereagh London Ltd to be confused with Castlereagh Ltd of Dublin. Both are separate companies not under investigation.
Alliance Trust is not connected with Alliance Trust Plc, the FTSE 100 investment trust, which is also not under investigation.