Ian James Hamilton, aged 37, the director of Industry RE Ltd (IRE), has been disqualified from being a company director for 15 years following a hearing at the High Court.
Under Mr Hamilton?s sole control IRE operated a number of ?alternative investment? scams between 2009 and 2013 that have caused losses of at least ?13.3 million to members of the public. The main scams were a money circulation scheme and selling interests in land in Dominica that the company never owned.
This disqualification follows investigation by the Official Receiver at Public Interest Unit, a specialist team of the Insolvency Service. The Official Receiver?s involvement commenced with the winding up of the company by HM Revenue & Customs.
The investigation found that Mr Hamilton caused IRE to operate with a want of commercial probity, systematically taking money from consumers on the basis of misleading statements made to consumers.
IRE traded in a number of business areas, all of which involved a subcontracted telesales operation to ?cold call? members of the public, selling ?alternative investments? in a variety of projects. There were two principal schemes sold to members of the public by the company, both of which were dishonest.
In the first scheme IRE received money from consumers by guaranteeing a return on their investments, which was actually a money circulation scheme. Most investors believed they were purchasing carbon credits, which IRE said that it would repurchase within 12 months for 30% more than investors had paid, and sell the credits onwards to a connected company in Dubai.
IRE made payments totalling more than ?8.6 million to customers that included what were claimed to be investment returns. However, the investigation found that IRE had not made any of the claimed investments and did not receive any profits that it could use to pay investment returns to investors. Instead, IRE had made payments using deposits from other, newer, investors. This is the key characteristic of a money circulation scheme. Investors in the scheme have lost in excess of ?5.7 million.
Some investors in 2009 had paid IRE for ?solar bonds? that were to pay a return of 10% per annum for 5 years, and then investors would receive their capital back. IRE did not invest in any such solar scheme and did not receive any profits from which it could make payments to its investors.
Instead, payments claimed to be ?interest? were made from the deposits of newer investors. This was a smaller scheme than the purported carbon credit scheme.
The other principal scheme operated by IRE was the sale of interests in an ?Eco Resort? that it claimed would be built in Dominica. Consumers were persuaded to pay ?25,000 for an interest in the supposed resort, and were promised a return of 80% on their investment within 2 years. However IRE never told investors that it had not acquired the land on which the resort was to be built. On the current information IRE received sums totaling ?7.6 million from investors to buy interests in the ?eco resort?, none of whom have received any return.
A number of ?customer updates? have been circulated by the company between December 2012 and 3 August 2013. In these documents Mr Hamilton stated that the company had relocated to Dubai, and there then followed a serious of purported explanations of why the company was delayed in being able to make payments due to customers.
In December 2012 sums totaling more than ?1.1 million were transferred from the company?s bank account in a single day. In his very limited contact with the Official Receiver Mr Hamilton has suggested that IRE?s monies were being held by a connected company in Dubai, but he has failed to provide any information or company records to support his version of events, or to cooperate in any way with the Official Receiver or the liquidator.
Tony Hanon, Official Receiver at Public Interest Unit, said
?The company persuaded members of the public to part with substantial sums by falsely promising investors extremely high rates of return. In reality, the scheme operated only for the benefit of those running the company, principally the director, Ian Hamilton.?
?As is so often the case, if an investment scheme appears too good to be true, it probably is.?