One of the most notorious property scandals of the late noughties has moved into its final stage after the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) revealed that it has finally recovered funds from a fraudulent land banking scheme that saw over £3 million extracted from investors.
Between late 2009 and May 2011 hundreds of people invested their savings in an unauthorised collective investment scheme run by Synergy Land Group Limited and its director, then 24-year-old Samuel Exall trading as Synergy Land Group.
The scam, which Exall and three associates ran, saw strips of land in Gloucestershire sold via pressure sales techniques – elderly property investors were told that developers such as Taylor Wimpey and Barratt Homes were being forced to sell land at a discount by weak demand, none of which was true.
These plots, it was promised, would then rise in value significantly when Synergy obtained planning permission for the sites and then negotiated with a developer in order to realise a large profit for individual investors.
Property investors were offered plots for £7,000 but told they would be worth £40,000 once planning permission had been sought.
But the riches did not materialise and Exall and his associates were prosecuted by the City of London Police for conspiracy to commit fraud relating to his involvement in a number of land banking schemes.
In October 2016 Exall was convicted and sentenced to 4 years in prison.
The Synergy land banking scheme was investigated by the FCA and in June 2011 it began civil action against Synergy and Exall resulting in the FCA obtaining orders freezing their assets,
The FCA has recently recovered a sum of money following the sale of these assets and ‘small sums’ are now available to be returned to investors.