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Possible refund for investors caught out by planning consent scam

The Financial Conduct Authority wants to find people who unwittingly invested in an unauthorised land banking scheme - they may be eligible to get some of their money back.

Between late 2009 and May 2011, members of the public invested approximately £3m in an unauthorised collective investment scheme established and operated by Synergy Land Group Limited and its director, Samuel Exall trading as Synergy Land Group.

According to an FCA statement, Synergy “used high pressure sales techniques to persuade members of the public to buy small plots of land from two larger sites which were marketed as Cheltenham Manor on the basis that Synergy would collectively manage and subsequently sell the sites as a whole.” 

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Synergy promised investors it would obtain planning permission for the sites and negotiate with a developer to secure profits for investors. 

While the FCA does not regulate the sale of land, it does regulate collective investment schemes - which is how this scheme was categorised - and a firm must be authorised by the FCA to promote or operate a CIS in the UK. 

Neither Synergy nor Exall were so authorised.

The Synergy land banking scheme was investigated by the FCA and back in June 2011 the FCA commenced civil action against Synergy and Exall resulting in the FCA obtaining orders freezing their assets and stopping the unlawful activity.

Exall was subsequently prosecuted by the City of London Police for conspiracy to commit fraud relating to his involvement in a number of land banking schemes and in October 2016 he was convicted and sentenced to four years in prison, as well as being disqualified from acting as a company director for seven years.

 

The FCA has recently recovered a sum of money following the realisation of assets which Exall was ordered to sell, which the FCA is required to distribute to investors who purchased the plots in question. 

The FCA wants to hear from investors or family members who recall investing in this scheme - but the authority warns it “will only be able to return a small sum to eligible investors.”

Anyone eligible should email Synergy@fca.org.uk or write to the FCA at Freepost RTZE–RHAL–URAJ, for the attention of UBD AJS RE01079, Financial Conduct Authority, 12 Endeavour Square, London E20 1JN.

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