Arrests made as firm trading in Newbury has assets frozen
The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has obtained a High Court freezing order against Asset L.I. Inc. – trading as Asset Land Worldwide, Equity Services (London) Limited, and Asset Land Investment PLC.
The order also applies to three individuals who cannot be named for legal reasons.
The FSA has also obtained court orders to prevent any of the companies or individuals from selling plots of land on particular sites pending further investigation by the FSA and other agencies, and the conclusion of ongoing civil proceedings.
The sites upon which the firms are believed to have promoted and sold plots of land are in Newbury, and Stansted, Harrogate, Lutterworth, Liphook and South Godstone.
The FSA said it took action because it suspected that these companies were running a land banking operation, an activity it believes amounts to an unauthorised collective investment scheme.
The freezing order is part of co-ordinated action involving West Berkshire Trading Standards and the Metropolitan and Essex police forces who executed an entry warrant at an address in Essex and arrested one individual.
n 2010 West Berkshire Trading Standards issued a warning concerning a company’s offer of small plots of Newbury land for sale.
Asset Land Inc. was offering individual plots at The Chase, Wash Water, for around £19,000 each.
A website offering the land, marketed it as an “investment opportunity”, however West Berkshire Trading standards labelled it “ a standard land banking scheme”.
“The company owns the land and has divided it up into plots for selling individually. But it relies on future planning permission and at the moment there's no application,” a spokesman for Trading Standards, Sean Murphy, said at the time.
Land banking companies divide land into smaller plots to sell it to investors on the basis that once it is available for development it will soar in value.
While not all land banking schemes are a scam, it is not always made clear to investors when there are restrictions on the development of the land or that it is otherwise protected.
The schemes are estimated to have cost UK investors as much as £200m.
Anyone who believes that they may have been contacted by a land banking operation, or any other unauthorised financial services provider, is asked to contact the FSA’s consumer helpline on 0845 606 1234.