UDATE from FCA 22 Jan 2017

Thanks to one of the Asset Land Scam Group members, Roberta, for liaising with the FCA and transcribing the conversation you can read below.

Dear Interested Parties
Following interest in the above from a few of you I spoke to John Edwards of the FCA this morning [this was 10 Jan 16 – Ed] who spent 25 minutes explaining what the situation is at the moment.  I think I managed to get it all down so I include a transcript of what he said.  I appreciate that quite a lot of it is already known but at least it puts it in perspective and we have information about the way forward from here and placed on the assetlandscam website for everyone to see..
As you know the Supreme Court judgement dismissed the final appeal of the defendants in April 2016.  This cleared the way to enforce the original judgement.  The ruling was that £21million should to paid by the defendants.  Since then certain technical/legal details have been attended to and the FCA made the demands on the defendants (2 individuals David Banner-Eve and Stuart Cohen and the two companies – one registered in the UK and the other in Panama).  The time has lapsed for them to pay up so a bankruptcy petition was issued against Banner-Eve to be heard in the Cambridge County Court on 10 Feb 2017.  He will be made bankrupt because he won’t have the money.  Also petitions are being finalised against the 2 companies, and they have to wait 28 days between service and action.  FCA will wind up both companies, therefore, at the end of February 2017.  April will probably be the Court date by the time the orders are made.
So Banner-Eve  – a trustee in bankruptcy will be appointed to take control of his assets.  The receiver will step in and safeguard assets, then an independent trustee will become the trustee with power to control assets and sell to the benefit of creditors.
The FCA is the biggest creditor at £10million presumably due to the costs of the Court Case.  The rest would be for us – the investors.  However, the FCA is thinking about cutting out the middle man and relinquishing their share (£10m) so that all will come to us.  It is hard to tell at the moment how much is available.  There are assets subject to the freezing order such as buy to let properties (not known at the moment whether these have mortgages on them or not) – the equity is unknown.
The trustee needs to get hands on the assets.  It is likely that it will be significantly less than what investors paid out.  This is estimated that this will take 1-2 years from now because it takes time to sell properties etc.  John Edwards said that if we get anything we should see it as a bonus.
There are 7 sites which were sold to investors.  Some are owned by the Panamanian company some by the UK company.  Not all plots were sold at each site.  The companies still own some of the plots.  It is likely that the sites have some value.  The FCA anticipates that the liquidator will realise the assets for the benefit of creditors as part of the defendants’ assets – land it owns on the sites.
Because there are lots of owners the individuals won’t be able to sell off plots.  The liquidator will be the best person to sell off the sites.  He will invite plot holders to enter into a scheme using a legal mechanism designed to unify the site ownership under one register of title – to dispose of as a whole and reimburse plot owners in proportion to what they own.  We, the investors, may be asked to sign the legal title to a trustee to hold in trust for the legal owners and a legal mechanism used to achieve a sale.
Liquidation estimate for April 2017.  FCA is in the hands of the courts.  Petitioned Banner-Eve in November and only getting bankruptcy hearing in February – example of how long it takes.  Have to wait for Court decision.  The same will happen when the companies are wound up.  Petition runs out mid-Feb so court date won’t be before March-April.
Stuart Cohen is the 2nd individual in the equation.  He has never engaged with the FCA.  He has never provided an affidavit of his assets.  After the disheartening result of the West Berks case, it became possible for Cohen to leave the country because his bail conditions were lifted and nobody knows where he is but probably in Panama.  To chase assets may not be financial viable in Panama because Panamanian solicitors would have to be employed and the cost may be greater than the assets.
It is suspected that much of the money went abroad – it is time consuming to chase and could take years.  There are physical assets in the UK, but FCA not sure how much it will yield.  It depends what decision the trustees in the bankruptcy make on how much it’s going to cost to find these other assets.  They have to make a hard-nosed decision about whether it’s worth pursuing it.  It’s the trustee’s job to find these assets and make that decision.
Kind regards


FCA latest news 26 April 2016


Originally published: http://www.fca.org.uk/news/asset-land-investors

Action we took

We took legal action against Asset Land and the individuals involved and obtained court orders freezing their assets and preventing them from continuing to operate the schemes until the court ruled on whether they were CIS. We took this step to protect as much of the money that investors had paid to Asset Land as possible, and prevent it from taking more money from new or current investors.

A full trial of our claim was held in the High Court in October 2012. In February 2013, the High Court reached its judgment and ruled that they were operating CIS. After a further hearing in March 2013 the High Court ordered that they should pay us £21 million on behalf of investors.

Appeals against the High Court ruling

Two of the defendants appealed against the High Court’s decision which meant that we could not take any steps to obtain the money the court had ordered the defendants to pay to us, pending the outcome of the appeal. In the meantime their assets remained frozen.

In a judgment handed down in April 2014 the Court of Appeal also found that the Asset Land schemes were CIS. The same two defendants then lodged an appeal against that decision to the Supreme Court. As this raised the possibility that the Appeal Court’s ruling could be overturned we still could not take any action to obtain payment of the £21 million.

The appeal was heard by the Supreme Court on 13 and 14 January 2016 and judgment was handed down on 20 April 2016. The court dismissed the appeal and ruled that the schemes run by Asset Land were illegal CIS. A summary of the main findings and the full judgment are on the Supreme Court’s website, and can be found by clicking on the highlighted text.

What will happen next

The judgment opens the way for the FCA to take action to enforce payment of the £21 million by the defendants whose assets remain frozen following the original court proceedings in 2012. Unfortunately, we consider it likely that the value of these assets will be insufficient to cover anything but a very small proportion of the amount ordered to be repaid and therefore any repayments to investors are expected to be correspondingly small.

In the course of the next few weeks the FCA will be writing to all known investors individually to provide more information about the next steps and the likely timescales involved.

What should you do

If you purchased land through Asset Land you do not have to take any immediate action.

You do not need to send in any documents relating to your land purchase from Asset Land to us now but you should keep them safe as they may be required later on. You will be informed if and when it is necessary to provide documentary evidence of your land purchase.

You should keep us informed of any changes of address or contact details so that we can keep our records up to date. This will ensure you receive any communications from us. You can do this by contacting the FCA’s consumer Contact Centre.

If you have not previously registered your position as an investor you can do so by contacting the Consumer Contact Centre.

We are aware of an action group set up by and for people who invested with Asset Land. This group provides additional information that you might find useful. However, we are not involved with the group and cannot confirm that the information it provides is accurate.

If you think you may have been contacted by a land banking operation you can contact our Consumer Helpline.

Update – WIN for the FCA….21 APR 16

Firstly, the FCA have confirmed that the appeal by Asset Land and David Banner-Eve was dismissed – so the final result – WIN for the FCA.

The Supreme Court unanimously dismisses the appeal by Asset Land and Mr Banner-Eve, finding that Asset Land’s activities amounted to operating “collective investment schemes” under section 235 FSMA, and were thus “regulated activities” for the purpose of section 19. Lord Carnwath gives the lead judgment. Lord Sumption gives a concurring judgment.

You can see a copy of the judgement with a press summary here: https://www.supremecourt.uk/cases/uksc-2014-0150.html

or download the pdf copies from the links below:



You can watch a video of the final judgment here (3 mins 15sec in length): https://www.supremecourt.uk/watch/uksc-2014-0150/judgment.html

The FCA will now be taking action to enforce the payment order of £21 million they obtained in 2014 but it is likely that the defendants will not have sufficient assets to pay that sum.  It is follows therefore that investors will not receive anything but a very small proportion of what they invested. Also, this process is likely to be complex and protracted.

Regarding time-frames, the FCA have stated, “So we are really only at the ‘end of the beginning“. FCA

Also, for those still struggling to Section 75 claims or who have not started their claim, the Supreme Court’s dismissal of the appeal will help push your claim towards success. The FCA say,

“Those investors who paid by credit card and who that have not already pursued claims under s75 of the Consumer Credit Act should think about doing so.” FCA

Who does the land we all hold now belong to?

“The land remains the property of the current owners. So all those investors who bought plots will continue to remain the legal owners. Some plots were not sold so they will remain the property of Asset Land. However, once we have taken action to enforce the payment of the £21 million that the judge ordered to be paid to us, it is very likely that Asset Land will be forced into liquidation at which time its assets will come under the control of a liquidator. It will then fall to the liquidator to dispose of the land that Asset Land owns and some scheme will probably have to be put in place whereby the plots belonging to the investors are brought into the equation so that the various sites can be disposed of as a whole. This is likely to be a complex matter, and there might be other ways of dealing with it that the liquidator may come up with.

But in short, the Supreme Court’s decision does not affect who owns the land.” FCA


Further Answers to Investor Questions 21 Jan 16

In response to the comprehensive summary I posted yesterday,   further questions were posed by investors.  Once again, I am indebted to James Smith for his eloquent and accurate answers.

I have taken the liberty of posting his comment below for all to see.

The £20.9 million figure is derived from the preliminary order made by the High Court in March 2013 (see link below). This figure would normally be revisited at a formal “quantum hearing” and could be increased (or possibly decreased) but would be nullified if the Defendants won in the Supreme Court and the original judgement was overturned.
It is reasonable to conclude that the figure is a best estimate derived from the documents obtained by the Court or FCA. These could include published and internal accounts, statements of assets, bank account and credit card statements and land registry records which would show the consideration paid for the land by investors. I would expect the figure to be reasonably accurate. Remember this is a gross figure (i.e. it does not take into account the associated costs incurred by the Defendants).

You have asked a number of questions:

1. Where is the money now?

The High Court would have required the Defendants to disclose all of their assets when seeking a global freezing order. No doubt the FCA would have employed forensic accountants to follow the audit trail. I understand that the land was paid for by bank transfers, cheques and by credit card. It would therefore be relatively easy to confirm the gross sales figures and the identify the destination to which those receipts were original paid. Modern anti-money laundering regulations make it very difficult to extract and hide significant sums but not impossible. It would be a serious criminal offence if the Defendants failed to made full disclosure of their assets.

2. How has it been used?

I would speculate that a large proportion of the sales receipts would have been expended in the costs of running the business and therefore no longer exist, some would have been spent on assets such as land banks (which are now probably close to worthless) and the balance would have been extracted as profits by the Defendants. My previous post suggested that is quite likely that any net profits received by the Defendants could subsequently have been largely expended on living expenses and legal fees over the last four years.

3. By whose authority has the money been used?

Obviously until the original freezing order in 2012 the business and owners were free to spend the monies as they saw fit. The £20.9 million figure related to gross sales over a six year period. A high proportion of this money would have been spent on legitimate business activities before the freezing order (purchase of land, administration costs, premises, commissions, taxes etc) and I would suggest that a further significant sum could have been spent by the owners on their lifestyle during the same period. It is therefore probable that only a small proportion of the gross sales would have existed at the time of the freezing order and much of this could have been reinvested in land banks that would now have little real value.

After the freezing order the Defendants would have been restricted in their use of any residual funds, however, they would have been permitted their basic living costs and would have been allowed to fund their defence against the Civil and Criminal actions. I would anticipate that those costs would have run into several £millions.

4. Are there any accounts for us to see?

There are published accounts available at Companies House for two of the six Defendants – Asset Land Investment Plc and Equity Service (London) Limited (see links).
Asset Land Investment Plc’s last published accounts at 31/12/2010 showed that its net balance sheet position (i.e. value of net assets) was £76,705. Its total turnover until this date from its incorporation was £4,563,016. Equity Services (London) Limited was dissolved on 17 May 2014. Its last published accounts showed a negative balance sheet (i.e. it had no value). There does not appear to be any public record of Asset LI Inc’s accounts which is not surprising as it is a Panamanian company.
In the event that the original High Court ruling is not overturned by the Supreme Court I would anticipate that the FCA will appoint Insolvency Practitioners to liquidate Asset Land Investment Plc and to bankrupt the two individuals who have not already settled (Susan Siggins has reached a settlement). The accounts would then become available. However, there is little that can probably be done about the Panamanian company.
5. £20.9m is referred to below. Accountability is important. Who is overseeing this large sum and getting the best value for expenditure?
As stated previously, the £20.9m is an estimate of investors’ gross investment. It is unlikely that more than a small fraction of this exists in the form of cash. The Defendants’ assets have been frozen but would have been allowed access to funds to pay for their defence and basic living costs. No one would be managing any remaining assets until the original court order is confirmed.
As also stated previously, the FCA would have incurred very substantial costs in undertaking the investigation and court actions and there will be more substantial costs in tracing and liquidating assets so after these costs are recovered it is unlikely that there would be anything left to distribute to investors.
Investors might be interested that there are many other high profile legal cases waiting on the outcome of the Supreme Court decision. As this is a major test case I would conclude that the FCA have pulled out all the stops and not spared any legal expense to win the case. If they are successful in may well be a pyrrhic victory for the Asset land investors.

James Smith

Summary of current position 20 Jan 16

One recent comment on the blog provided a very  comprehensive (and accurate in my opinion) summary of the current situation with regards to investors and Asset Land.  I thought it was worthwhile posting this summary here as I know not everyone will read all the comments on the blog.

Thanks to James Smith.

You may have missed the conclusion of the criminal case in December when all of the Defendants were found not guilty. Therefore, technically, no one has actually been defrauded.
We have now reached the Supreme Court stage of the civil case. Previously the Defendants had been found to be in breach of Section 21 of the Financial Services and Markets Act, 2000 by operating an unauthorised unregulated collective investment scheme (i.e. the Defendants did not have authorisation to operate such a scheme). This can result in a criminal sanction with a maximum penalty of two years imprisonment and an unlimited fine. However, it now seems extremely unlikely that the Defendants will be prosecuted after being found not-guilty of conspiracy to defraud. The question before the Supreme Court is a point of law revolving around the definition of a collective investment scheme which is defined as follows:

Collective investment scheme (S.235, FSMA, 2000)
(1) In this Part “collective investment scheme” means any arrangements with respect to property of any description, including money, the purpose or effect of which is to enable persons taking part in the arrangements (whether by becoming owners of the property or any part of it or otherwise) to participate in or receive profits or income arising from the acquisition, holding, management or disposal of the property or sums paid out of such profits or income.
(2) The arrangements must be such that the persons who are to participate (“participants”) do not have day-to-day control over the management of the property, whether or not they have the right to be consulted or to give directions.
(3) The arrangements must also have either or both of the following characteristics—
(a) the contributions of the participants and the profits or income out of which payments are to be made to them are pooled;
(b) the property is managed as a whole by or on behalf of the operator of the scheme.
(4) If arrangements provide for such pooling as is mentioned in subsection (3)(a) in relation to separate parts of the property, the arrangements are not to be regarded as constituting a single collective investment scheme unless the participants are entitled to exchange rights in one part for rights in another.
(5) The Treasury may by order provide that arrangements do not amount to a collective investment scheme—
(a) in specified circumstances; or
(b) if the arrangements fall within a specified category of arrangement.

This is very complicated and the correct interpretation is by no means clear otherwise the Defendants would never have received leave to appeal to the Supreme Court.
The original High Court case found in favour of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and a provisional order was made compelling the Defendants to surrender £20.9 million. Their global assets had already been frozen by High Court Order prior to this hearing. The compensation order was held in abeyance during the appeal process. The Appeal Court upheld the original High Court judgement. This is the final stage in the UK courts. Only Mr David Banner-Eve and Asset Land Investment Plc have appealed on the grounds that the High Court misinterpreted the meaning of “Collective Investment Scheme”. In the event that the remaining Defendants win at this stage it will probably mean that the revised judgement would apply equally to the non-appealing Defendants – Stuart Cohen, Susan Siggins, Asset LI Inc and Equity Services (London) Limited.

On the assumption that there is no further appeal to the European Court of Justice or (less likely) European Court of Human Rights, then the following outcomes are likely:

In the event that the Supreme Court finds in favour of the Defendants it is likely that the compensation order will be overturned and no compensation would be paid. Indeed, where investors have been compensated by their credit card provider then they would in all likelihood be required to make repayment.
However, the investors would still be able to take out a private damages action against the Defendants for misrepresentation. The likelihood of success would be limited but would be based on the balance of probability unlike the criminal case where the burden of proof was greater (i.e. beyond reasonable doubt). The cost of any such action would probably run in six figures.

If the original High Court judgement is upheld then the provisional compensation order would be confirmed and the FCA could seek to enforce the compensation order (subject to the quantum being appealed which is likely).
If the compensation order is upheld or reduced then the balance would be recoverable from the Defendants. Investors who can prove that they have been disadvantaged can seek compensation but this would only be paid after the FCA has recovered its costs. In the event that an investor has already been compensated by their credit card provider then it is the provider who would be entitled to compensation.
This is where the really bad news starts. £20.9 million is the FCA’s estimate of the gross investments made by the investors. The actual profits earned by the Defendants is likely to be only a fraction of the gross amount after taking into account the costs of buying the land, conveying the land, operating the business, paying commissions to the sales team and even suffering tax on declared profits. In addition the Defendants will have certainly incurred substantial legal fees and would have been unable to trade in the intervening four years. It is therefore highly unlikely that they will have any substantial assets remaining.
Assuming that the Defendants are unable to pay the full level of compensation then the FCA can seek to bankrupt the individuals and liquidate the companies. This is an expensive process. The Insolvency Practitioner’s fees would be paid out of the net proceeds derived from liquidating the Defendants’ assets. Insolvent liquidations are hardly notorious for generating tangible returns.

In summary, it is quite possible that the net amount of compensation available to investors after court costs, legal fees, FCA costs and insolvency costs will be a big fat zero.

I am sorry to be so pessimistic. As the old saying goes “justice is the preserve of very rich and the very poor”. Hopefully, the FCA have been working overtime in identifying a hidden pot of gold. I am not holding my breath.

Supreme Court Appeal Concluded 15 Jan 16

Asset Land Investment PLC and its director Mr David Banner-Eve had their appeal heard today by the Supreme Court following a DISMISSAL of their appeal in the COURT of APPEAL.

The previous decision made by the Divisional Court to uphold the FCA complaints stands.



The first appellant is a public limited company. The second appellant is a director of the first appellant. Between 2006 and 2008 the first appellant, and another company ALI-Panama, purchased areas of farmland with the aim of carving them up into plots and selling them to individual investors. The judge found that the structure of the scheme was that: (i) the first appellant would seek to progress planning procedures so that the sites could be used for housing; (ii) the first appellant would procure their sale to developers; and (iii) the investors who sold the plots would be paid a share of the total consideration paid by the purchaser. Investors would only receive the contract for the purchase of land after they had paid the full purchase price. The contract included clauses that: the first appellant had made no representations which the investors were relying on in entering the contract other than those set out; and, the first appellant would not apply for planning permission or any other act within the 2000 Act unless authorised. Investors filled out a separate form confirming that they read and understood the disclaimers. Once these documents had been received, title to the plot would be registered at the Land Registry in the name of the investor. Following complaints, the FCA appointed investigators. On 14 June 2012, the FCA brought proceedings against, amongst others, the appellants for operating “collective investment schemes” (s.235 of the 2000 Act) in contravention of the 2000 Act. The Divisional Court upheld the FCA’s complaints and the Court of Appeal dismissed the appellants’ appeal.



Newbury Planning Dept information

There has been talk of Newbury and the potential for planning departments to re-zone this site especially after the recent court case.

The only firm information we received from the Planning Office can be seen below (admittedly this was in 2012 but did give future predictions).

Who has firm evidence from the Planning Office that Newbury may be re-zoned and given planning permission for development then?

Newbury Planning Office Reply