Trinity Associates Limited, a land banking company based in Bridgewater, Somerset, which was involved in the sale of plots of land to the public for investment at a site in Bridgewater and a site in West Cheshunt, Hertfordshire has been ordered into liquidation in the High Court on grounds of public interest.
This follows an investigation by The Insolvency Service, which disclosed Trinitys close association with a number of other companies engaged in selling land at these two sites at exaggerated prices. The other companies included Century Property Group Ltd, formerly Century Land Ltd which was wound up on grounds of public interest on 4 April 2012, a provisional liquidator having earlier been appointed on 18 August 2011 (see Note 6).
The Court was told how Trinity was used by the other land banking companies to mask their activities and in particular how the company assisted Century to circumvent the appointment of a provisional liquidator of its affairs by diverting receipt of an estimated 331,500 which should have been administered by Centurys provisional liquidator.
The Court heard how Trinity was an integral part of the wider scheme to sell plots of land to members of the public as investments on the basis of misleading statements as to the value of such investment.
According to Trinitys sole director, Richard Goodare, the company became involved with the Bridgewater site on the advice of Centurys director Stephen Wheeler and purchased four acres of land for 100,000 between October 2010 and January 2011. It entered into oral agreements with Century and another company (against which public interest winding up action has been commenced) allowing them to sell plots of land on the site. The plots were sold for between 8,000 and 10,000 each.
Trinity disposed of two acres of the Bridgewater site to Century for 96,000 and the remaining plots were marketed on the misleading basis that buyers could expect to make substantial gains within two to three years. Trinity received some 147,815 in total from the Bridgewater transactions.
According to Mr Goodare Trinity did not purchase or sell any land at the second site at West Cheshunt and merely processed the sales made at this nine acre site by other land banking companies. The investigation nevertheless uncovered completion statements in respect of transactions carried out in Trinitys name in September 2011 showing the sale of 10 plots to investors for a total of 128,500.
Welcoming the Courts winding up decision, Company Investigations Supervisor Chris Mayhew, of The Insolvency Service, said:
Trinity was used as a vehicle to circumvent the appointment of a provisional liquidator in Century in order to continue Centurys unscrupulous land banking business by re-routing Centurys sales and by also allowing its bank account to be used to transact the business of other land banking companies.
Working together with other regulators we have now wound up nearly 100 unscrupulous land banking companies, not one of which has made any money for investors. In many cases investors have been doubly unfortunate in afterwards being contacted by other unscrupulous companies falsely offering to help them recover their lost investment and demanding a further immediate investment supposedly to become a client in order to act for the investor.
I would remind the public not to fall prey to these sharks by making snap decisions based on a slick sales pitch or website designed to make those behind unscrupulous companies rich, not investors.
These cold calling savings raiders can devastate lives and I would urge people to be cautious when contacted out of the blue and invited to invest in alternative investments such as land, carbon credits, rare earth metals, diamonds, wine, gold and platinum. Not every unsolicited call will be a scam, but you should never be afraid to say no thanks. As ever, if a scheme sounds too good to be true, it usually is.