UK Government

Insolvency Service (National): High Court orders five land banking companies into liquidation

Press Release  •  Apr 02, 2010 13:15 BST

Five companies involved in the mis-selling of undeveloped land for investment to the public have been ordered into liquidation in the High Court following a Insolvency Service investigation on behalf of the Government.

The Company Investigations of the Insolvency Service found that Pemberton International Limited;  Eldon International Limited;  Willow International Limited;  Allied Investment Management Limited and Abacus Investment Management (London) Limited were all involved in operating an unscrupulous land investment business.  The companies falsely claimed to provide the best land and property in the UK with future development potential and the capacity to deliver maximum returns to investors including selling land they had no right to.

Commenting on the case Ian Lucas, Minister for Business said:  “This action sends a clear message to those businesses who set out to cheat members of the public and investors, you will be thoroughly investigated and when necessary closed down.   This case also highlights the need to remind potential investors to be wary of any land banking, or other scheme, that promises huge profits for little outlay.”

The investment plots were marketed for sale across five sites in Thorndon, Suffolk; Halifax, West Yorkshire; Worplesdon, Surrey; and Folkestone and Bromley in Kent.  More than 500 plots of land were sold to investors generating nearly £1.8million for the companies before they were forced to close down.  None of the sites were found to have any prospect of planning permission for residential development.

The grounds for winding up the companies were that they made misleading and unfounded statements in marketing the plots of land to the public; sold land on two sites (Worplesdon and Thorndon) that they had no right to sell and that over a third of company receipts were found to have gone to those involved in the running the business, namely;

£372,226 to Mr Eshpari

£152,042 to Mr Mitchell

£184,786 to Mr Straker

£34,795 to Mr Gongora

In ordering the companies into liquidation Registrar Derrett said:  “This is a very serious case where considerable amounts of money have been obtained from members of the public. I am satisfied that the evidence, based on a very full report, substantiates all of the allegations. The evidence shows diversion of funds and the intermingling of funds by the companies that can’t be unravelled. I am satisfied that Mr White and Mr Eshpari have demonstrated complete lack of co-operation and that this is very obviously a case where winding up orders should be made.”

The investigation also found that the companies had failed to keep proper accounting records; had failed to comply with Companies Act requirements;  failed to co-operate fully with the investigation and operated with a serious lack of transparency as to who controlled the companies and with a lack of clarity regarding the structure and roles of the companiesThe petitions to wind up the companies in the public interest were presented on 29 September 2009 under the provisions of section 124A of the Insolvency Act 1986.  The companies initially opposed the winding up action but were not present or represented at the full hearing of the petitions on 31 March 2010 and they were all ordered into liquidation on grounds of public interest.

Notes to editors

1  Pemberton International Limited was incorporated on 14 August 2003. The registered office of the company is at 50 Ellison Road, London, SW16 5BY. The sole recorded director of the company is Mr De’Rial White who is shown to have been appointed on 15 January 2009. The previous directors of the company are shown to have been Mr Omar Eshpari (from 7 April 2008 until 3 November 2008) and Mr Steven David Lawrence Tagg (from 3 November 2008 until 6 January 2009). No company secretary is shown to have been appointed in succession to Mr Carl John Pearson who is recorded as secretary from 7 April 2008 until 17 December 2008.

2  Eldon International Limited was incorporated on 14 August 2003. The registered office of the company is at 50 Ellison Road, London, SW16 5BY. The sole recorded director of the company is Mr De’Rial White who is shown to have been appointed on 15 January 2009. The previous director of the company is shown to have been Mr Stevan David Lawrence Tagg (from 23 July 2008 until 6 January 2009). No company secretary is shown to have been appointed in succession to Mr Oliver Wilson who is recorded as secretary from 23 July 2008 until 19 January 2009.

3  Willow International Limited was incorporated on 21 August 2008. The registered office of the company is at 50 Ellison Road, London, SW16 5BY. The sole recorded director of the company is Mr De’Rial White who is shown to have been appointed on 15 January 2009. The previous director of the company is shown to have been Mr Jose Emilio Gongora (from 21 August 2008 until 15 January 2009). No company secretary is shown to have been appointed in succession to Mr Carl John Pearson who is recorded as secretary from 21 August 2008 until 15 January 2009.

4  Allied Investment Management Limited was incorporated on 8 October 2008. The registered office of the company is at 50 Ellison Road, London, SW16 5BY. The sole recorded director of the company is Mr De’Rial White who is shown to have been appointed on 10 October 2008. The previous directors of the company are shown to have been Mr Stefan Mitchell (from 8 October 2008 until 10 October 2008), Mr Majgan Rassoli (from 8 October 2008 until 17 November 2008) and Mr Dean Benjamin Straker (from 8 October 2008 until 17 November 2008). The company secretary of the company is Mr Stefan Mitchell who is shown to have been appointed on 8 October 2008.

5  Abacus Investment Management (London) Limited was incorporated on 6 November 2008.  The registered office of the company is at Rutland House, 90-92 Baxter Avenue, Southend-on-Sea, Essex SS2 6HZ. The sole director and secretary of the company was Mr Ashley Cunningham who is shown to have been appointed on 6 November 2008 and to have resigned as a director on 27 October 2009.

6  On the application of the Secretary of State the Official Receiver was appointed by the Court as provisional liquidator of the companies on 17 December 2009.  The role of The Official Receiver was to protect the assets and financial records of the companies pending determination of the petitions. The application to appoint a provisional liquidator was first heard on 8 October 2009, but at this hearing the companies, through their directors, offered to give undertakings to the Court as to their future conduct and to cease trading pending the determination of the petitions. The Court accepted that these undertakings were sufficient to protect the public interest pending trial of the petitions. The undertakings however were not fully complied with and accordingly the Secretary of State returned to Court on 17 December 2009 with a further application to appoint a provisional liquidator. The companies did not oppose this further application. The Court accepted there had been a failure to comply with the undertakings and immediately ordered the appointment of the Official Receiver as provisional liquidator of the companies.

7  The Insolvency Service administers the insolvency regime, investigating all compulsory liquidations and individual insolvencies (bankruptcies) through the Official Receiver to establish why they became insolvent. The Service also authorises and regulates the insolvency profession; deals with disqualification of directors in corporate failures; assesses and pays statutory entitlement to redundancy payments when an employer cannot or will not pay employees; provides banking and investment services for bankruptcy and liquidation estate funds; and advises ministers and other government departments on insolvency law and practice.  Further information about the work of The Insolvency Service is available from http://www.insolvency.gov.uk

8  All public enquiries concerning the affairs of the company should be made to: The Official Receiver, Public Interest Unit ,  Tel No 0207 637 1110: Email: piu.or@insolvency.gsi.gov.uk

9  Media enquiries should be directed to: - 
Denise Rawls,            Press Office Manager             020 7634 6910
Ade Daramy,             Press Officer                         020 7596 6187

Contacts

NDS Enquiries 
Phone: For enquiries please contact the above department 
ndsenquiries@coi.gsi.gov.uk


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