A STORY OF INCOMPETENCE, DECEIT, FRAUD AND REGULATORY FAILURE
This is a brief narrative of the circumstances in which Mark Bentley-Leek (more recently Mark Bentley, Mark Leek and who knows whatever other aliases (see below) and Mustafa Dervish, between 2006 & 2010 persuaded some 300 of their clients to invest c£37m (today, c£50m+ with interest) of their savings into schemes which were at best misrepresented, ill researched, unsecured and poorly managed and in reality largely fraudulent. The vast majority of the investments have been lost, with catastrophic consequences for many investors. The 2 principal protagonists have since respectively fled abroad and retreated in denial to Essex (since moved on, but returned, see below), while the regulatory authorities have largely been inordinately slow to react (where they have reacted at all), and then to limited effect.
All of the matters referred to below are clearly evidenced from available documentation. The entire Bentley-Leek hard drive and a large number of its papers are in hand. In the few instances where there is any element of speculation, the available documentation is unanswerable.
Copies of all documentation and further information can be obtained from Julian Holy (JH) at firstname.lastname@example.org
Mark Bentley-Leek (now variously Mark Bentley, Mark Leek, and ?) (MBL)
MBL (21.03.1953) is 64 years old. He was an IFA. His working life was spent in the financial services industry where he largely dealt with pedestrian financial products (general and other insurances, pensions and the like), albeit habitually held himself out as having more advanced skills. In October 2013 the FCA fined him £525k (unpaid) and banned him from the industry. He has since been disqualified from acting as a director of any UK company for 12 years.
MBL was bankrupted In March 2013
MBL, with his wife Debra and their children Zara and Harry subsequently decamped to Thailand, where they initially lived in Koh Samui, Surat Thani. Zara and Harry were enrolled as students at the local International School of Samui, though they will now have moved on. It is understood that they are all exponents of Facebook and, possibly, other social media outlets. It is believed that the family has since moved from Koh Samui and their contact details will be published when to hand. To assist, if anyone has knowledge of their present whereabouts or activities then please forward the same to JH for inclusion in the next update of The Story.
As of 2015, it is believed that MBL’s eldest daughter, Natasha (an English qualified solicitor) lived with her husband, Matthew Carter-Clout, in nearby Singapore. Matthew is said to be (or have been) a senior executive with Deutsche Bank, with whom MBL maintains that he enjoys a substantial business relationship.
The reincarnation of Mark Bentley - Leek as Mark Bentley, Mark Leek and ?
MBL has subsequently re-emerged variously as Mark Bentley and/or Mark Leek (other aliases are unknown), Global Head of the Private Wealth division of an outfit called Temple Bar International (TBI) (not to be confused with the FTSE 250 company, Temple Bar Investment Trust plc, albeit with a strangely similar website). TBI's head office has previously been given as an accommodation address in Marbella, Spain though in its latest posting is given (at least for the Asian office) as
Level 18, Park Ventures Ecoplex, 57 Wireless Road, Lumpini, Pathumwan, Bangkok 10330 (email@example.com) o: +66 (0) 2 309 3644, m: +66 81 477 5127)
That apart, TBI’s contact details comprise a partial world map with the suggested locations of its operations and an email link in which it describes itself as (paraphrase):
"One of the world's premier brokerages specialising in investment opportunities for astute expatriates looking for consistent capital growth managing over £3bn on behalf of clients in 40 countries world-wide".
TBI’s website can be found on www.templebarint.com.
MBL (presumably in charge of the firm’s £3bn of client assets under management) describes himself (in past TBI websites, though no longer available) as:
"An industry professional with 40 years experience in the financial services industry … [having held] … positions as a principal in London, New York and various locations in the Far East".
He went on to say that he is:
"a specialist in wealth management and creating innovative alternative investment solutions … [and] … combines traditional financial planning with a range of alternative investment and tax planning methods to both protect and build up a client’s assets and provision for the future in all eventualities."
No mention of the c.£50m fraud that he perpetrated on his hapless clients when operating at the helm of BLFM, or his bankruptcy, tax evasion, money laundering, striking off as an IFA by the FCA or disqualification as a director for 12 years. Just more of the same.
As recently as the Spring of 2016 MBL responded to a potential investor (who had become aware of his antecedents) to the effect that his situation is "a direct result of the global recession" with everyone being "victims of the behaviour of the banks and regulators." The allegations against him, he says, are misleading and nonsense. He asserts confidently that the ceo of Temple Bar (George Kelly – no address or other contact details available apart from a very general email), is aware of his antecedents and (by implication) accepts MBL's version of events and is happy for him to remain in post, as (essentially) in charge of client cash (all £3bn of it).
JH wrote to George Kelly on 22nd October 2016 (at the TBI general email address) in the following terms:
"Attn: George Kelly, CEO
Dear Mr Kelly,
I understand that you are the ceo of Temple Bar International, a financial services organisation established in 1997 "as one of the world's premier brokerages specialising in investment opportunities for astute expatriates looking for consistent capital growth". I have been unable to establish where you are incorporated or to source your financial records though your website says that you operate from offices in Africa, Australia, Eastern Europe, Middle East, South America and South East Asia. You provide a map identifying your offices though, with the exception of your operation in Thailand, I can find no further detail beyond email addresses.
Your website offers no information at all as to the identity, qualifications or background of your personnel though nevertheless tells us that you have thousands of clients in 40 countries worldwide and over £3bn of funds under management, and that you are dedicated to ensuring that your clients "achieve the best return on their offshore capital and income": essentially, you aim to provide "the best financial advice and products in the world".
More recently you have been circulating potential clients with offers of 7% & 12% returns from the likes of Dolphin Capital, Tritox Property Income Fund, Custodian Life, Stonehenge CS Snowball Income Fund, 300L Capital and Castlestone – all with "Capital protection" (whatever that is).
As one of the world's premier brokerages serving astute expatriates looking for consistent capital growth (re-assured by Capital protection) and with promises of ... 7% & 12% returns, your organisation is fronted by Mark Bentley-Leek, otherwise Mark Bentley, Mark Leek, and probably otherwise who is your Global Head, Private Wealth Division. For the purposes of this message I will refer to him as MBL.
You will be aware that MBL has hitherto operated a financial services firm from Guildford in the UK through which he defrauded some 300 clients (of which I am one) of over £50m (including interest to date). He not only stole their money but is guilty of tax fraud and money laundering. Details of his adventures appear from "The Bentley-Leek Story" on the internet (soon to be updated). When he could no longer continue to deceive his clients (and with the authorities closing in) he ran away to Thailand. In his absence he has been sanctioned and fined by the FCA (£525k – unpaid), bankrupted and disqualified from financial services and acting as a director of a UK company for a substantial period. As and when he returns to the UK HMRC has indicated that it will seek a prosecution and the City of London police will be encouraged to resume an interest.
When confronted by potential clients with the above MBL writes at length, framing his situation as being a "direct result of the global recession" and everyone being "victims of the behaviour of the banks and regulators" - essentially, that the allegations against him are "nonsense". Quite how this analysis reconciles with the reality of his clear past criminal activity and professional disgrace, is unclear. Likewise quite how Temple Bar, as a world premier brokerage servicing astute expatriates could possibly entertain MBL as its Global Head, Private Wealth Division (or at all), without at least revealing his antecedents, needs to be explained.
MBL advises that, notwithstanding, you are aware of his past and support him unconditionally.
It may be that I have misunderstood, if so and in any event, your observations would be appreciated.
I look forward to hearing from you constructively within the next fortnight.
The email was not returned. JH wrote by way of reminder on 5th November. This message was, again, not returned and there has been no response.
In the interests of fairness JH wrote to MBL (again at the TBI general email address, all that was available) with a copy of his message to George Kelly of 22nd October and invited his comments, of which there have been none.
It is noteworthy that in the Careers section of the TBI website the following basic criteria are prescribed for aspiring applicants:
“You need to have:
An honest approach and entrepreneurial ethos
A successful track record
An excellent understanding of money and the financial services industry
An enjoyment of travel as part of your work”
There is evidence that MBL is widening his scope of operations (apart from TBI), turning his hand to advance fee fraud, ostensibly through a set up in Saudi. It is reasonable to assume that there will be other manifestations. Any information should be sent to JH for inclusion in updates of The Story.
Mustafa Dervish (MD)
MD (10.05.1948) is 69 years old and, in common with MBL, was an IFA. He likewise spent his career at the mundane end of the financial services industry.
As with MBL, the FCA has excluded MD from the financial services industry and fined him £360k which he failed to pay and in December 2014 was bankrupted as a consequence. He has likewise been disqualified from acting as a company director for 12 years.
MD was lastly known to be busying himself peddling what is left of the BL investor assets (over which he has been able to retain some control – for cash, it is believed) for his own benefit. It is also believed that MD has been able to maintain his current lifestyle with access to the secret commissions received in connection with the Dubai and Canadian adventures (see below), and possibly others. The same probably also applies, in part at least, to MBL.
From at least 2005 until July 2016 MD lived at 24 Bridleway, Billericay, Essex. In January 2014, presumably in anticipation of the impending FCA bankruptcy proceedings, the title to the property was transferred to MD’s wife, Elaine. Subsequently, in February 2014 a second charge was registered in favour of B.C Ltd of Vancouver, Canada. Little is known of B.C. Ltd though it is suspected that it may be connected to Bhadhur Karim who paid MBL/MD some C$276k in secret commissions - see "Canada" post. Presumably B.C's charge accounted for whatever equity might otherwise have been available to MD’s creditors. The property was sold in July 2016 whereupon MD decamped to Cyprus from where (some business ventures having failed) he more recently returned and is presently living in Gallywood, Essex, a few miles from Billericay.
As with MBL if anyone has knowledge of MD's present activities then please forward the same to JH. for inclusion in updates of The Story. Other enquiries continue.
Paddy O’Sullivan (PO’S)
PO’S is a career criminal. He is 69 years old and has a UK passport (though he was born in Guernsey). It is suggested that he is a debarred CA though there is no record of him having ever had such a qualification either in the UK or Ireland. He appears to have set up business in Limassol (Cyprus) in the early 1990’s from where he offered aggressive, tax efficient, offshore financial advice to those who wanted it. He was subsequently jailed for fraud in the UK and upon his release in 1997 was officially barred from Cyprus and “placed on the … [country’s] … stop list”. It is unknown whether that ban is still in place.
PO’S has hitherto operated through a Liberian registered company, International Group Limited (IGL) which maintained an account with HSBC in Petersfield, Hampshire, England (there were probably other accounts), through which he routed/laundered substantial sums of money. When in the UK, PO’S operates from an office above a shop in Petersfield and a flat in the town. Whether HSBC is aware of (or interested in) PO’S’s shadowy past and his activities which it has facilitated, is unclear. JH has written to HSBC (several times) in explicit terms though the bank has chosen to ignore his letters. For HSBC, it seems, money laundering is de rigueur.
The last available PO’S manifestation appears from a July 2015 report of a High Court order winding up IGL in connection with an advance fee scam operated by PO’S and another in which the judge found that … “there was no evidence that … [PO’S] … made any efforts to obtain funds for the clients; however, the funds received … [advance fees] … were swiftly divided up and distributed, with large amounts withdrawn in cash and the remainder shared between various individuals and businesses registered in Bulgaria”.
PO’s current contact details are as follows:
P.O.Box 42, Petersfield, Hampshire GU31 4YA
T: +44 (0)1730 260703
F: +44 (01730) 260706
If anyone has knowledge of PO'S's present whereabouts and activities then please forward the same to JH for inclusion in updates of The Story.
Nimal Fonseka (NF)
NF is a very well qualified accountant. He was a long standing friend of MD and acquaintance of MBL.
Sebastian Carlton (SC)
Of UK origin, SC relocated to Dubai some years ago (though some believe that he lives with his family in the south of France) and established the Gulfstream group of companies.
Bentley-Leek Group (BL)
This is a description intended to describe the Bentley-Leek undertaking as a whole, the entire organisation ultimately owned and controlled by MBL/MD though now defunct.
Bentley-Leek Financial Management Limited (BLFM)
BLFM is a UK private limited company incorporated in September 2000. It was MBL/MD’s principal vehicle, an FSA regulated IFA through which BL’s financial services business was operated and which was responsible for selling all the investments complained of.
The owners and directors of BLFM were always MBL/MD.
In November 2011 BLFM was put into liquidation and B & C Associates, insolvency practitioners of Mill Hill were appointed as liquidators. The company was left bereft and that there was no dividend for creditors. It was dissolved in February 2017.
Bentley-Leek Properties Limited (BPL)
This is a UK private limited company established in July 2003 and controlled throughout by MBL/MD. It was used for UK property development/speculation and some other non property related activities. BDO was appointed as the administrator of the company in October 2011 and the administration moved to a liquidation in September 2012. It is generally accepted that there will be no dividend for creditors.
Bentley-Leek Properties International Limited (BLPI)
This is another UK private limited company established in June 2006 and controlled throughout by MBL/MD. It was used for foreign property related adventures. All of the company’s investments were hopeless and almost certainly lost. MD has subsequently transferred the entire issued share capital of the company (and hence, ownership and control) to one Lloyd Gold (extent and form of consideration unknown, though whatever it might have been, the original investors have not benefited) who is now also the sole proprietor. Accordingly, in the unlikely event of BLPI receiving any return on its investments, these are unlikely to be received for the benefit of the BL investors who funded it.
Bentley-Leek Properties (JV1) Limited (JV1)
JV1 was a UK special purpose vehicle (“spv”) established in September 2006. Its sole purpose appears to have been the acquisition and turning to account of Strawberry Hill House, T/Wells. The acquisition funding was provided by NatWest which, with JV1 in default, appointed BNP Paribas as receivers in October 2011. It is understood that the property has since been sold though there seems to be a problem in respect of the distribution of some of the proceeds (c£318k) given the same were still (as at December 2016) held by BNP. The company has no registered directors and its registered office is recorded as MD’s former home in Essex. In December 2016 Companies House issued a notice of intention to wind the company up within 2 months, whereupon its assets (c£318k) would pass to the Crown (in the absence of any identifiable claimant). It is unlikely that the money will remain unclaimed though, either way, there will be no dividend for BL investors. The company was dissolved in February 2017.
Bentley-Leek Properties (JV2) Limited (JV2)
JV2 was a UK spv established in March 2005. The company was ultimately owned and controlled by MBL/MD and was wound up in March 2016.
Bentley-Leek Properties (JV3) Limited (JV3)
JV3 is a UK spv established in February 2007. The company was likewise initially owned and controlled by MBL/MD who transferred their shares to Lloyd Gold and Nicholas Fisher in October 2013 (terms unknown). MBL/MD simultaneously resigned as directors and Mr Gold was appointed in their stead.
Hornbuckle Mitchell Group Limited & Hornbuckle Mitchell Trustees Limited (together HM)
Hornbuckle Mitchell Group changed its name to Embark Services Limited in January 2016.
HM is a medium sized financial services organisation whose business (historically at least) involved (possibly amongst other things) the provision and administration of SIPPs to clients introduced by IFAs (such as BL). In this role, HM was required to exercise an element of control over the application of SIPP funds and to act as a joint trustee in holding investments acquired by them.
International Group Limited (IGL)
IGL is a private limited company incorporated in Liberia which (according to its notepaper) operated from offices in South Africa, Zanzibar and Petersfield, Hampshire. At all material times it has been PO’S’s principal trading vehicle. By all reports it has now been dissolved.
JH Complaint and PO Determination
Respectively, JH’s complaint to the Pensions Ombudsman of 18th March 2012 and the PO’s determination of 5th October 2012.
Lusso Homes Limited (Lusso)
Lusso was a UK private limited company of which, unknown to BLFM clients, 50% was owned by MBL/MD, who were also directors. The other 50% was owned by Anthony Martin and Neil Jones who were also directors (and who ran the company on a day to day basis). The company was put into administration in July 2012 and liquidation in October 2013. The administrator sold the business and goodwill of the company back to Messrs Martin and Jones (for a nominal sum which it conveniently applied in the settlement of its fees) who have reputedly continued seamlessly with the business, under a similar name.
Gulfstream Properties Limited (Gulfstream)
Gulfstream is a private limited company incorporated in Mauritius. Sheikh Maktoum is a director and majority shareholder. SC is the CEO.
Sheikh Mohammed Bin Maktoum Bin Juma Al Maktoum, a member of the Dubai Royal Family (not to be confused with the Prime Minister, of similar name).
Thomas Wells (TW)
Thomas Wells operates in the financial arena and is an associate of PO’S. Likewise he has a criminal record.
IN THE BEGINNING
MBL established BLFM in 2000 and initially operated from his home in Surrey. In due course he was joined by MD and they opened an office in Guildford (in premises until recently jointly owned by their SIPPs, administered by HM though more recently sold in unclear circumstances). By the time the entire operation imploded in October 2011 it is believed they had some 3000 clients to whom they principally provided traditional personal financial services. In about 2004, however, they conceived of the possibility of inviting the wealthier of their clientele to invest in specific property related schemes (and latterly, some which were not property related), thereby potentially improving upon the returns otherwise available from more traditional investments. Some clients were persuaded to participate. The initial forays involved modest individual property developments which, by repute, enjoyed a measure of success: at least investors physically received or were otherwise credited with a reasonable return though it has since been suggested that there never were any profits, only losses, with investors being paid from new client funds – from the outset a classic, if initially inadvertent, Ponzi scheme (which is precisely how NF (while BL’s accountant), writing to another CA (John Brace, of the BLIG – see below) described the BL operation in open correspondence).
Funds derived from 2 sources, either in cash directly from clients (BL’s records indicate that there were 377 such investments which it valued at c.£23.4m) or from their SIPPs managed by HM (311 investments valued at c.£18.8m).
BLFM was “managed” by MBL/MD as their fiefdom. Essentially, there was only one bank account into which all client funds were received and which was used to variously disperse salaries, office expenditure, directors’ drawings and generous expenses, the costs of football season tickets, entertainment, directors’ home improvements, air travel, cars, family costs, unspecified cash withdrawals and so on. What was left was applied to the “investments”. The concept of “trust” or “client” accounts didn’t seem to come into the equation (something that didn’t appear to trouble BL’s then accountants/auditors, The Bryant Partnership – NF’s predecessors). Accounting records (such as they were and of which complete copies are available) are abysmal which has hampered the subsequent tracing of funds.
By the end of 2010 BLFM had run out of money, in the sense that it could no longer attract more client funds to sustain its Ponzi scheme. Clients were not being paid and MBL/MD’s excuses became increasingly less plausible. In October 2011, B&C Associates (insolvency practitioners) were appointed as liquidators. As far as can be gathered, B&C were persuaded to assume their role in reliance on MBL/MD’s assurances that there would be a substantial return for creditors. This has subsequently proved not to be the case – BLFM was utterly bereft. The goodwill of its business was sold for a nominal sum. In the light of what they have discovered, B&C are no longer believed to be supporters of MBL/MD.
BLFM had no effective Professional Indemnity Insurance.
Bentley-Leek Investor Group (BLIG)
When HM belatedly conceded at the beginning of 2011 that all was not well with BL, it asked Barry Perrin, one of its SIPP holders and a BLFM client, if he would be prepared to gather an informal group to liaise with MBL/MD in an attempt to ascertain the real position within BL. The hope was that investors might thereby be re-assured that (as MBL/MD confidently contended) all was fundamentally sound and that the obvious cash flow problems that had emerged were temporary and would be overcome if given a little time. Mr. Perrin (a retired businessman) agreed and asked for volunteers to form an ad hoc committee. John Auber and John Brace (practising chartered accountants), Ken Seakens (practising solicitor) and JH (retired solicitor) joined him. Mr. Perrin invited fellow BLFM clients to join the group and c.90 did so.
THE INVESTMENT VEHICLES
The investments were broadly described as BLP, BLPI, JV1, JV2, JV3, Dubai and Canada and basically fell into 3 categories, namely:
1. In the cases of BLP & BLPI, BLFM clients were invited to make simple unsecured loans to the companies. The promise was that client funds would be applied to (often unspecified) investments which would justify guaranteed returns of up to 18% p.a. The loans would typically be for 2/3 years with interest accruing until redemption (though, in a limited number of cases, interest was paid on a periodic basis). When loans matured, MBL/MD enjoyed considerable success in persuading investors to roll them over for a further term. In this way, BL’s deteriorating financial state was effectively concealed until the end of 2010 when there was no money left, even to pay the most basic outgoings. The loan agreements were generated internally, largely incomprehensible and completely inadequate. In total, BL’s records show that between May 2006 and October 2010 there were 409 investments, which it valued at c.£20.7m (109 SIPP’s - £5.9m, and 300 cash - £14.8m).
2. In the cases of JV1, JV2 & JV3, investors were invited to subscribe for shares in the companies that would purchase residential development sites in Tunbridge Wells, Esher and Wimbledon respectively. The developments would be managed by BL for which it would be paid a fee. Once the developments were completed and sold, the net proceeds would be distributed to investors as a return of capital and profit. In total, some £5m was invested in this way by 90+ BLFM clients between 2007 and 2009.
3. Dubai and Canada were variations of JV1/2/3 in that they involved BLFM clients investing their funds directly into off shore structures respectively undertaking developments in Dubai and Canada. Beyond funnelling money to the developers, BLFM had no further ostensible involvement (or interest) over and above an overseeing roll. When the developments came to fruition, its clients would be paid out. For reasons which have recently emerged, MBL/MD were particularly anxious to promote these investments and persuaded some 195 of their clients to commit c.£17.33m (see below).
All of the investments have been lost.
A summary of BLP’s assets has been abstracted by BDO from the company’s SAGE accounts. It reveals that the company received some £15.443m of client funds and identifies, as best it can given the dreadful state of the accounting records, where they were applied. Of particular interest are the following:
1. Residential Portfolio (£3.35m)
This comprised a motley mix of flats in the Surrey area. There is no specific record of exactly how the funds were applied between the properties, which were substantially geared and tenanted. In the event, the flats have been, or are in the course of being, disposed of (in all cases by receivers appointed by mortgagees). All equity has been lost and there will be no return for investors.
2. Lusso (£1.85m)
Lusso was the contractor that undertook the JV2 and JV3 developments (and other work on behalf of BL, including the enlargement of MBL’s home at a reputed cost of more than £650,000, all funded from BLFM). The JV2 development was delivered with a substantial loss and the JV3 development is lost. It is uncertain why BLP needed to advance £1.85m to the company, or what happened to those funds. It may or may not be relevant that, unknown to BL clients, MBL/MD owned 50% of the company.
3. JV1 (£1.036m)
From the papers available it is unclear exactly what was intended in this case, beyond the purchase of a potential residential development site in Tunbridge Wells. Given the subsequent sales pitch in the cases of JV2/3 (see below) it is reasonable to assume that BLFM clients were promised shares in the company, pro-rata to their investments. In the event, no shares were ever issued other than to BLP, which appears to have made all of the necessary equity available. There do not appear to be any disgruntled investors and as such it is suspected that they were duly paid off with other BLFM client funds, perhaps with a “profit”. The property was never developed, though it was the subject of an unexplained “in/out” arrangement with an Iranian investor (?) in c.2009 which cost the company some £350k. The property has subsequently been sold for a substantial loss albeit for reasons which are presently unclear, some £318k of the proceeds continue to be held by the receiver. The company was compulsorily wound up in February 2017 without any information as to the fate of funds withheld by the receiver though, whatever, there will be no dividend to BL investors.
4. JV2 (£168k)
Presumably the money required to fund the overrun on the JV2 development (see below).
5. Dubai (Gulfstream) (£1.246m)
Funds invested directly into the Dubai adventure (see below).
6. Zanzibar (£1.174m)
As with several other adventures, the boundaries between BLP and BLPI investments are unclear (particularly since they were both operated from the same bank account and records are very poor).
The overall BL investment in Zanzibar was c.$2.538m and this is a part of the total involvement (the remainder being attributed to BLPI). In October 1997, the Zanzibar government is said to have granted a 49 year peppercorn lease over some 40 square miles of coastal land on the Nungwi peninsula to PO’S and TW. The land was leased on the understanding that PO’S and TW would develop it as a complex that they promised would include 11 hotels, a golf course, racecourse, schools, an airport, a hospital, university, trade and conference centre, offshore banking facilities and a time share business park. PO’S and TW had assured the government that all necessary funding ($4bn+) was available. Subsequently, in the absence of any progress with the promised development or evidence of the assured funding, it was discovered that PO’S and TW were attempting to raise funds by pre-selling development plots. Not much appears to have happened since, apart from adverse press.
In 2008 PO’S introduced MBL/MD to the prospect of investing in part of the scheme, a residential and hotel/leisure complex to be known as “Spice Island Hotel and Resort”. It appears (the general lack of records available makes it difficult to be certain) that BLP initially agreed to invest $6.75m albeit, ultimately, only managed $2.538m. BLP was duly issued with 4614 shares in the development company, Zanzibar International Limited (ZIL) (allegedly 46.14%) of which MBL became a director. Little more is known of the actual proprietary interest of ZIL in the property or otherwise on the corporate front, save that the capital of ZIL is elsewhere recorded as $100,000 and BLP’s holding is nowhere to be seen. The investments were paid via IGL’s account with HSBC in Petersfield – there is no evidence of where they went from there.
There is no evidence that:
a. BLP has any interest in ZIL (apart from a share certificate issued via IGL for shares that do not accord with what is known of the capital structure of the company), and
b. ZIL has any proprietary interest in Spice Island (details of the 1997 lease are scanty and there is no indication where it is owned, even if it exists).
Subsequently, PO’S persuaded MBL/MD to seek an omnibus financial facility, pledged on the Zanzibar interest (whatever that might have been), which would enable the BLP investment ($2.538m) to be repaid, facilitate the ongoing development and provide much needed liquidity for the BL group. To this end PO’S introduced MBL/MD to BSC Offshore Funding, an offshore organisation operated by John Taylor and Matthew Mok, known international scammers and advance fee fraudsters. In May 2010 BSC duly issued an offer to make available a facility of $67m. The loan comprised a number of offers from varying exotic lenders, all of which were nonsense. To give the scam some credence PO’S advised that the loans would be coming secretly from the Japanese Royal Family. MBL/MD believed it all and paid over an advance fee of $700,000 – via IGL. Inevitably, as BL’s financial position deteriorated and MBL/MD relied increasingly on the promised receipt of funds, nothing materialised.
Subsequently, though less so recently, PO’S has kept in contact with BDO and evinced a wish to assist. He advises that (a familiar mantra) the development is unfortunately constantly beset with problems albeit is confident of a positive outcome, from which BL investors will receive a dividend. Intelligence has it that there is little or no activity on site, and the generally held view is that, whatever transpires, there will be no dividend for BL investors.
7. Bulgaria (£484k)
In this case, it appears that BLP invested jointly with BLPI (a subtle distinction).
In December 2004, one Robert Roadknight (RK) purchased a tract of agricultural land in Bulgaria through a local spv, Engel 2004 Limited (Engel). He paid 10,000 Levs (today’s exchange rate equivalent is c. £4250). In 2005, and subsequently, planning permission was allegedly granted to develop the land as a residential/resort complex.
PO’S introduced MBL to RK in 2007 and brokered a deal whereby MBL purchased 50% of Engel for €500,000 (routed through IGL) while a Michael Kemp (?) was inexplicably gifted 24%. MBL’s interest was taken by PO’S, presumably in trust for BLP/BLPI (from where the purchase funds emanated). There is no documentation in place to evidence the relationship / arrangement between PO’S and BLP/BLPI.
The proposed development on site initially stalled, though PO’S suggests (to BDO) that work will commence in due course. No dividend is expected.
8. Bali (£331k)
This was an investment entered into by BLPI (see below), into which BLP subscribed funds. There is no record of whatever arrangement (if any) existed between the two companies (typically there was none).
9. Power Goldberg (£227k)
Mel Goldberg is a solicitor who reputedly acts for sports celebrities. From the papers available, the arrangement with Goldberg was that BL would fund an operation (within the existing Goldberg regime) to promote insurance and other BL products to his clients. In the event, while some £227k was outlaid (office expenses, salaries etc), no business of consequence was entered into and the venture petered out.
10. BLPI (£2.67m)
Additionally, the following adventures were entered into, of which there is little or no information:
Hunton & Williams 180,000
Clipper Capital Unspecified
Atlas Capital 88,246
European American Equities 35,202
BLP JV AGPD 65,612
Anthony Grant Properties 252,833
Global Opportunities 102,761
Circle Oil Unspecified
Extra Financial Risk 97,696
They are all lost and the available evidence indicates that they were all poorly researched, badly managed, unviable and in many instances, clearly scams (whether MBL/MD were taking backhanders is unclear).
11. Finally, there were the unrelated loans:
MBL directors loan a/c: 768,278
MD directors loan a/c: 902,028
Bentley-Leek Professional: 9,385
Anthony Grant Property Devs: 252,833
The MBL/MD directors’ loan accounts appeared in the audited accounts of the company. Subsequently, when BDO demanded repayment, MBL/MD claimed that the accounts (which they had signed off as directors) were inaccurate and their liabilities are minimal (which, in MBL’s case particularly, is difficult to reconcile when some £650,000 of BLP funds were clearly paid out for works to his home, Hever Grange).
There are insufficient records of the Anthony Grant Property loan (£252,833) to enable it to be practicably pursued.
Between February 2008 and March 2009, BLFM persuaded 80 of its clients to make loans of c.£4.47m to BLPI. Additionally, it appears that BLP advanced £2.67m, making a total inflow of £7.14m. BFLM’s accounting records are so poor as to render difficult the task of tracing particular “investments” with any certainty. As far as can be ascertained, the company invested £2,057m into Dubai between February and September 2008, with the remainder paid into the Bali, Bulgaria and Zanzibar adventures (with BLP). All payments were routed through IGL. As for those investments:
1. Bali (£588,000)
MBL was introduced to Mike Taylor (MT) in or about May 2008. MT was based in Australia and MBL owned a residence in Perth (now believed to have been sold). Generally MT is considered to be an honest person whose only failing was to become involved with MBL/MD. Somewhere in the mix was a Sharon Cook. She was promoting an asset swap scheme, Bartercard. The suggestion was that BL would “swap” UK assets to partly fund the acquisition of others abroad, in this case in Bali. The arrangement was practically misconceived and came to nothing. Notwithstanding, MT & MBL resolved to proceed on a cash basis.
MT was undertaking the development of a resort in Bali and required funding. MBL agreed an involvement, whereby he (on behalf of BLPI, it appears) would initially acquire 2 and then 3 villas (there might have been more). There were to be stage payments and, initially, some were made though the flow rapidly dried up as BL ran out of money. MT was left to preside over a complete meltdown. Development ceased and services were disconnected. The investment is lost.
The present status of the development is unknown though, typically, no BL entity ever had any title to anything.
It is unclear how much BLPI invested in the Bulgarian adventure. Details appear above (BLP).
3. Zanzibar (c.£400,000)
As with other investments, the demarcation between BLP and BLPI involvement is unclear. From available records it seems that BLPI invested £400,000 into this adventure. Details appear above (BLP).
4. Dubai (£1.246m)
BLPI was an investor in Dubai, alongside other BL clients. The investment is dealt with below.
JV1 has been dealt with above under BLP because, whatever might have been promised, it ultimately featured as a debtor of BLP with no record of the interests (or money) of investors.
This investment comprised a one off residential development in Esher. BL clients were invited to subscribe for shares in JV2, on the basis that once the development had been completed and turned to account, equity would be returned with a profit. The shares to be issued to investors were intended to afford them (as a body) ultimate control though in the event, unknown to them, they were issued with worthless shares. Their funds were overwhelmingly demoted to unsecured, interest free, non repayable loans with ultimate control and beneficial ownership reserved to MBL/MD. MBL/MD subsequently contrived to turn a projected profit of £700k into a loss of £100k (not assisted by the involvement of Lusso, a paucity of accounts and irreconcilable inconsistencies (such as 6 top range kitchens for 5 houses, at the same time as MBL’s home was being refurbished)). To compound matters, MBL/MD finally misappropriated the entirety of the final proceeds of sale in an attempt to bolster the Dubai adventure (see below). It is generally agreed that the investment is lost.
JV2 was wound up in March 2016.
JV3 was another one off residential development, this time in Wimbledon. The proposed structure was to mimic JV2 though, in this case, not only did investors fail to receive what they had been promised, they received nothing at all. Their investments (£2.538m) have never featured in the company’s accounts, whether as capital, debt or anything else. The development (undertaken by Lusso) was ill planned and underfunded. Although it was a stand alone, MBL/MD chose to charge the company’s sole asset (Wimbledon) in support of other unrelated BL activities with inevitable results. In due course, as the group ground to a halt, its bankers (NatWest) appointed a receiver to realise its security. The other BL debt swamped any JV3 equity that might ultimately have been available to BL investors. In the event, there was some opacity surrounding the NatWest debt which might have led to a compromise (details are not known). Whatever, as appears above, the company is now wholly owned and controlled by Mr. Gold, and the development on site is proceeding apace. If there is ultimately any dividend it will not be received for the benefit of the original investors.
In early 2007, MBL/MD recommended their clients to invest in a residential development scheme in Dubai. The idea, simply, was that investors would subscribe for shares in Mauritian spv’s, which in turn would undertake developments that, once turned to account, would generate substantial profits. MBL/MD persuaded 73 of their clients to commit £15.65m between February 2007 and August 2009.
There were to be 4 development vehicles to chose from, all of them Mauritian spv subsidiaries of Gulfstream. SC produced impressive promotional blurb which BLFM circulated. There were glossy pictures of desirable developments and financial prognoses, promising substantial returns for investors, evidenced by the good fortune of those who had reputedly gone before. Nothing could be guaranteed, though with Sheikh Maktoum at the helm (ably assisted by SC), what could go wrong?
What the promotional material relied upon was the clear notion that this was an investment based on the acquisition of property assets. It also predicated that the past unsustainable property price inflation would continue unabated though that was a matter for investors to believe, or not. That said, whatever happened to the market, investments would be underpinned by property. BLFM, in its sales pitch, re-enforced the tenet that, come what may, investors’ funds would enjoy an element of security. In the event little is known of what (if anything) was actually acquired and it is likely that the spv’s probably had little more than conditional purchase agreements/options to acquire interests in land, if they had anything at all. Either way, the monies raised were insufficient to complete those agreements (or whatever). MBL, challenged at the time by an IFA within BL as to the provenance of the proposed investments and the need for proper due diligence, is said to have retorted that “SC would not countenance due diligence” (or words to that effect). For reasons which have subsequently become quite apparent, MBL/MD were likewise anxious to avoid any possible impediment to the flow of investments into the scheme which any due diligence might have posed.
Where all the money went (c.£15.6m from BL clients alone, and there was more – see below) is unclear. When the market slumped, the spv’s were, as far as can be judged, left with little or nothing (in reality, if they had anything in the first place) – so much so that in late 2009 SC persuaded MBL/MD that it was essential to appropriate some £1.2m from another scheme (JV2 – see above) to prevent their clients’ entire investment (£15.6) from being lost. The loan (which SC personally guaranteed) was needed on a short term basis and would be repaid within 3 months - suffice it to say that it remains outstanding over 8 years later. SC continues with outward optimism in his promotion of the scheme though less and less often or plausibly as he continues to fail to substantiate his assertions, or deliver.
All of the Mauritius investment vehicles have now been dissolved.
From an investors’ perspective, the investment is lost, a view effectively shared by HM which has written off the investment in its clients’ portfolios. That said, HM has hitherto preferred to say that it has not written off any investments, but reduced their value to “nil” in the asset valuations of the SIPPs it manages because it is impossible to ascribe a value to them. To ascribe a “nil” valuation rather than a right off apparently preserves HM’s ability to continue to levy administration fees. This stance may have changed since the recent change of ownership of HM.
BDO has been pursuing SC in respect of his guarantee for some while, and it is believed that they have recently settled their claim for £225k. There has been some suggestion that the settlement would also involve the transfer to SC of BL shares held in Gulfstream, which might be said to be worthless but for SC’s confident assertions to other interested parties that the developments are about to begin and that everyone will be paid. At the time of this update BDO has failed to respond to a request for information. The settlement payment will be absorbed by BDO’s outstanding fees. This is reasonable in the circumstances. They were duped into entering into the winding up in the first place by the dishonest blandishments of MBL/MD and have acted professionally throughout. Even with this payment, they will be substantially out of pocket.
BL clients were not alone in having been persuaded to invest in Gulfstream. Another small group (including 2 recent English sporting captains and other well known names) were advised to invest over 10 years ago, in response to the same promotional blurb that MBL/MD used to hoodwink their clients. In this case, however, it is believed that the group might be nearer to (or even achieved) a more satisfactory settlement due to the high profile of some of their number and the vulnerability (and availability) of their original advisors. In the meantime, they are re-assured by SC that all is well, that the development is on the brink of commencement and everyone (?) will be paid: a familiar refrain. It is reasonable to assume that there are others.
Most recently SC has given an encouraging interview to the Khaleej Times (24/5/17) which makes interesting reading.
The secret commissions
What BLFM’s clients were unaware of was that SC was paying commissions of 10% to MBL/MD for funnelling their clients’ funds to him. It is reasonable to say that if investors had been aware at the time of these commissions (and the method of payment – see below) then, all other issues apart, they would not have become involved. It also reasonable to suggest that, given the manner of payment of the commissions SC would or should have suspected that they were intended to be disguised. What is now clear is that not only did MBL/MD intend to deceive their clients, but also HMRC. They planned for the bulk of their secret commissions to be tax free. It is likely that this amounts not only to a fraud on investors but also tax evasion, money laundering and conspiracy (by MBL, MD, PO’S, SC and Sheikh Mohammed (if he knew or, as the majority shareholder and a director of Gulfstream, should have known of what was going on)).
To facilitate the fraud, PO’S established a Marshall Islands company, Real Properties Inc, (RPI) on behalf of MBL/MD. The Marshall Islands Companies House reveals little information as to company’s owners/directors though there is no doubt but that MBL/MD were among the directors (if not the only directors). From the very outset, as early as April 2007 (when the first BLFM client investments were made) RPI was invoicing Gulfstream. Between April 2007 and August 2008, 17 invoices have been traced (there may be more) for a total of £2,331,670. Of these, 11 were submitted by RPI for £1,532,900 in aggregate while the remaining 6 were submitted by IGL for £798,770. The RPI invoices were variously signed by MBL/MD as directors while the IGL invoices were signed by PO’S as director.
RPI does not have a bank account. Accordingly, SC settled all 17 invoices by payments to IGL’s account with HSBC in Petersfield. Of the £2,492,670 received by IGL (which includes £161,000 in respect of Canada – see below), £492,000 was remitted to BLP and the balance of £2,000,670 has disappeared. This is not only fraud on BL investors and HMRC, but money laundering which is a criminal offence. Whether HSBC was privy to the arrangements is unclear. At one level it can certainly be said that the bank was less than diligent. The bank has been asked repeatedly to comment though has steadfastly refused to do so (or even respond to correspondence). Small beer, of course, given HSBC's established worldwide money laundering credentials. De rigueur.
BLFM’s accountants at the time (The Bryant Partnership) were clearly aware of the Dubai commissions amounting to £2,331,670. One of their partner’s handwriting appears from email exchanges discussing payments though, for one reason or another, they omitted to include them in any audited accounts.
Heartened by their success in Dubai, MBL/MD/P’OS were moved to emulate the exercise in Canada (see below).
Bahadur Karim (BK) is a businessman operating in Vancouver, Western Canada. In 2009 he marketed the prospect of a resort development at Squamish, between Vancouver and Whistler. Squamish was already undergoing substantial development and BK’s proposals were credible. He proposed a participation in the construction of a 307 room, 4 star hotel and 176 residential villas (with all other appropriate amenities) on a 34.5 acre stretch of waterside land. The resort would be known as “Shannon Falls Resort and Spa” and be pre-eminent in Western Canada. It would require some C$318m to complete and generate some C$423m in sales. Although there was no evidence of funding, investors were specifically assured that:
“… the project will be fully funded, including contingencies, before the development commences.”
Of course, this was not to say that BL investors’ funds would be applied to anything concrete, and it was likely that they never were.
Investors were invited to commit their funds to a limited liability partnership for between 4 & 6 years with no interim returns, simply the promise of a huge ultimate profit of up to 174%. As far as can be seen, the investment vehicle was remote, with no demonstrable interest in the development or the land upon which it was to be undertaken (a familiar model). Its function appears only to have been the receipt of investors’ cash, and to pass it on. An investment like this was too good to be true and many saw it for what it was.
Oblivious to the realities (almost certainly blinded by the off shore commissions on offer) BL urged 26 of its clients to invest C$2.76m (£1.68m) in the project. Of these, 22 laid out c$2.43m from their SIPPs while the balance of C$330,000 was contributed by 4 clients from their cash resources.
What has only recently come to light (and BL clients were not advised of) was that BK had agreed to pay commissions of 10% of the money raised to MBL/MD. While BLFM arranged for its clients’ money to be remitted directly to BK in Vancouver, the commissions (C$276,000) were invoiced by IGL and paid to its HSBC account in Petersfield. The invoices (all of which may not have been traced) were signed by PO’S as director.
As mentioned above, of the £2,492,670 in commissions that IGL received in respect of the sale of the Dubai and Canada investments, it accounted for £492,000 to BLFM. The balance of £2,000,670 has disappeared.
The development never materialised due to a lack of funding, the investors were told (notwithstanding the initial assurance that “… the project will be fully funded, including contingencies, before the development commences”). The lack of funding, it appears, consumed investors’ cash, and that was that! Subsequently, with an impressive lack of detail, investors were advised that mortgagees of the land that they had invested in had foreclosed, and all was lost. BK subsequently maintained a limited presence by periodically issuing optimistic circulars (à la SC) though the general view was that they were bogus and intended only to deflect investors, until they became too weary to continue. Nothing substantial has been heard by investors for over 2 years.
While the general consensus is that the investment is lost, to the ever optimistic, perhaps not so.
More recently Karim has revitalised the scheme, much along original lines as reported in The Squamish Chief (local newspaper). The paper’s comprehensive report of the proposal can be found at
In the course of its coverage of the story, Jennifer Thuncher of the paper taxed Karim about the fortunes of past disappointed investors to which he was pleased to confirm that “if there are any investors left they could get their money back with this new incarnation of the project … [and that they should call him at their convenience] … on 604 779 5948”. His direct email address is Bahadur@middlehaven.com and his contact address is 3120 Travers Avenue, West Vancouver, British Columbia, V7V 1G3, Canada.
It would be interesting to learn how any investors who attempt to secure any redress fare, for inclusion in updates of The Story.
SC is the CEO of Gulfstream and wears personally monikered shirts. It professes development activity across the Middle East and nearby. The company has smart offices in Grosvenor Place, overlooking Hyde Park Corner and it is said that SC, when in the UK is fittingly driven in a Bentley.
It is difficult to comment definitively about Gulfstream because very little is known. It is incorporated in Mauritius as were its various subsidiaries (now dissolved) into which BL persuaded its clients to invest some £15.6m. Gulfstream’s web site identifies (or has hitherto identified) some personnel in glowing terms though gives no information as to its structure or, more relevantly, those of its subsidiaries which received BL investors’ cash. What is widely publicised, however, is that the majority shareholder is Sheikh Maktoum, who is also a director.
A delegation from BLIG met with SC in his London offices in May 2011. He was courteous and appeared concerned to assuage their concerns, in terms of accounts and corporate structures for the companies invested in, valuations, titles to what was really held, sensible prognoses, and so on. He promised that the documentation requested would be to hand within a matter of weeks and the delegation left with an element of re-assurance. Over 6 years later, despite repeated prompting, very little has emerged. Gulfstream did, however, for the first few years (now discontinued) periodically circulate encouraging newsletters, though for all the good news and glossy pictures, rarely did they have very much to say over and above reporting on the latest unavoidable delays with the development.
Essentially, the BL clients who were persuaded to invest some £15.6m have no idea at all where their money went, or whether there is or has ever been anything to show for it. Clearly, neither do MBL/MD or HM. Again, SC promised audited accounts for the Mauritian investment vehicles over 6 years ago, within weeks, and still there is nothing. Given that the vehicles are now dissolved there is little prospect of any accounts emerging, for what they would be worth in any event. Likewise, details of titles and mortgagees. A few valuations were produced some time ago but there is no knowing whether BL clients have any interest in the land to which they refer.
It is understandable that many BL investors have concluded that SC is a charlatan, that having bribed MBL/MD with huge off shore, tax free commissions to pour their clients’ money into his scam, he now intends to obfuscate for so long as it takes him to realise what is available on the ground, and then to run away, or simply brazen it out. This may be unfair though SC’s conduct over the last 6+ years doesn’t assist his cause.
Whatever may be the real position, it is assumed that Sheikh Maktoum could not have been aware of what has been going on. If only for reputational reasons, it is to be expected that he would be concerned to become involved to instil a degree of transparency and re-assurance.
Accordingly, in September 2013, JH (on behalf of the BLIG) wrote to Sheikh Maktoum outlining the antecedents of the matter and invited his intervention. It appears that it is common in Dubai for people not to have specific postal addresses but to be contacted via box numbers. Sheikh Maktoum is even more anonymous than most and as such JH’s letter to him was sent variously to the UAE Ambassadors in London and (in Dubai), the Dubai Real Estate Regulatory Agency, the Dubai FSA and the Dubai Economic Department with a request that it be passed on. There has been no response from Sheikh Maktoum, despite reminders.
This is a serious matter. Dubai aspires to be a financial hub, a centre in which business probity must be paramount and where financial mal practice is not encouraged to flourish. The issues raised in the case of Gulfstream need to be dealt with and as the principal shareholder (and a senior member of the Dubai ruling family) it is incumbent on Sheikh Maktoum to become involved. Unfortunately, the Sheikh has either not received the many letters sent to him, or he has chosen (for his own reasons) to ignore them.
With little knowledge of the Dubai regulatory structure, the obvious next step was to refer the matter to the Prime Minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. JH accordingly wrote to the Prime Minister in comprehensive terms in November 2013 to which there was no reply. A reminder in December fared no better.
So much for the fiscal probity with which Dubai promotes itself, more likely a haven for con men and thieves for which it is sadly rapidly acquiring a reputation.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)
In early 2008 a BLFM client consulted another IFA which was so concerned about BLFM’s practices in terms of client investments that it wrote in specific terms to alert the FSA (the predecessor of the FCA). It now transpires that at the time (and subsequently) there was a general industry concern as to the activities of BLFM and it is unlikely that this referral was alone. The 2008 complaint is very important. To the extent that the FSA was alerted to BLFM's shortcomings and chose not to act, then there is a clear possible line of redress. A copy of the 2008 complaint has been seen by JH though he does not have a copy. Alex Simpson of Harding Financial has a copy and that of the FSA's nugatory response albeit he declines to make them available, (strangely) contending that to do so might prejudice the interests of those of his clients (ex BL) who have lost so much at the hands of MBL/MD. Mr Simpson has declined to elaborate upon his position, or to justify the suggestion that his reluctance might have to do with the fact that his firm took over much of the business of BLFM and employs several of the BL staff who so anxiously persuaded BL clients to allow their retirement funds to be paid away to fraudsters.
The FSA was the regulatory authority and obliged to police the industry - it had received at least one (inevitably more) alert about BLFM’s practices though chose to do nothing at all. If it had intervened as it should have done, the present debacle would have been avoided. The FCA (the successor to the FSA) will inevitably decline any involvement in the issue of redress in the absence of evidence of the 2008 complaint (and its response) which Harding Financial refuse to make available and the FCA cannot trace. As such this possible line of redress has been denied to BL investors.
Belatedly, in 2012 the FCA became involved, some 4 years (at least) after it (the FSA) was first alerted to BL’s activities. On 18th October 2013 it issued its reports and findings which are available on line and make predictable reading. It has banned MBL/MD from the financial services sector indefinitely and fined them substantially. The fines have not been paid: they have each been bankrupted, excluded from the industry and banned from acting as directors for 12 years.
The Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS)
BLFM is completely bereft and the FSCS has accepted that it is “in default”. As such, it has accepted claims for compensation from past clients. The maximum award available to any claimant is £50,000, irrespective of the number and amount of their losses. Thus far, it is believed that over £10,000,000 has been paid out and the final total is likely to be substantially more. This will, however, only go some way to compensate BL investors for their losses suffered above the £50,000 limit which, with interest, exceed £50m.
The Pensions Ombudsman (PO)
Where a SIPP provider (such as HM) fails in its duties and a client suffers loss as a consequence, the client is entitled to apply to the PO for an award of compensation against the provider, which can be made to a maximum of £150,000.
It is generally considered that the losses suffered by SIPP owners would have been avoidable had HM carried out the most basic due diligence (even that which it concedes it was required to do). By not doing so, it was negligent. Accordingly, it is considered that the owners of the SIPPs, from which HM shovelled some £19m into BL schemes (all lost), are entitled to claim recompense.
The BLIG committee appreciated that any claims against HM would be resisted and it was decided that members be recommended to refrain from making claims until JH had made his and the claim had been determined. The JH Complaint was comprehensive, drawn out and ultimately unsuccessful, though the reasons given for the PO’s decision are seriously flawed. She misconstrued much of the evidence, simply ignored more and drew some silly conclusions, even though her obvious errors had previously been pointed out. The BLIG committee concluded that, so poor was the PO’s grasp of the matter and judgment, it did not urge members to proceed with their applications. Although a Hackneyed expression, the PO cannot be described as other than totally unfit for purpose. A comprehensive critique of the JH Complaint, and the PO Determination, is available.
In July 2014 the Financial Ombudsman handed down his decision in the case of a claim against Berkeley-Burke, a SIPP provider like HM. Although the FO sought to distinguish his decision from the PO Determination of the JH Complaint, the generally held opinion is that, in essence, there is no distinction – essentially, the FO has determined relevant issues raised in the JH Complaint correctly. The Berkeley-Burke decision was appealed though the outcome of that appeal is unknown to the writer – any information would be appreciated.
The PO’s overall view
The JH Complaint was dealt with by Jane Irvine, a Deputy Pensions Ombudsman.
In her determination Ms Irvine concluded that:
“There is a wide spectrum among SIPP operators ranging from those who will accept all sorts of investments in their SIPP wrapper to those who limit the investments to tried and tested assets. Esoteric investments in SIPPs involving unlisted UK companies investing in projects abroad are not universally accepted by all SIPP providers because of the lack of transparency of what they are involved in.”
“[HM] … seems to take a less conservative line than other providers in what they allow in their SIPPs. They are entitled to do this however and it appears that any investment which does not give rise to a tax/property charge may be put into one of their SIPPs”.
BL SIPP clients have lost c £19m by dint of HM’s “less conservative line” in its monitoring of the nonsense peddled by BL. It is understood that BL clients are not alone, that there are other unhappy HM clients in other “less than conservative” expensive debacles.
HM’s due diligence
The BL investments in individual property ventures such as JV1/2/3, the Gulfstream subsidiaries and Shannon Shores were marketed to its clients on the basis that returns would be received tax free in their SIPPs. This being the case, the investment vehicles (JV1, etc) needed to be “genuinely diverse commercial vehicles” for HMRC purposes. Essentially, this required that the vehicles should not be “close companies” and that the interests of individual investors and their influence/control be limited.
In the case of companies to which SIPP clients were to make loans (BLP/BLPI) a tax charge could only be avoided if the loans were “prudent, secure and commercial”.
Accordingly, to satisfy Ms Irvine’s basic requirement (that no tax/property charge be incurred) it was incumbent on HM to have carried out a level of due diligence to establish that:
(a) none of the companies were “close companies”,
(b) in the case of JV1 etc, the companies were “genuine diverse commercial vehicles” and
(c) loans to BLP/BLPI were ”prudent, secure and commercial”.
In discharge of the first of its duties ((a)), HM claims that it carried out searches at Companies House and that “… the information filed … [there] … would have been sufficient for the purpose of identifying that the … [companies] … existed and any issues of control and connection. Therefore, by obtaining these details … [HM] … was able to fully comply with HMRC requirements at all material times.” Quite how searches at Companies House would have offered any enlightenment in the cases of the Dubai and Shannon Shore investment vehicles is a mystery. A subtlety too far, it seems, for Ms Irvine. Furthermore, if any such searches had been undertaken in respect of JV1/2/3 (at Companies House) they would have demonstrated that the companies DID NOT comply with HMRC requirements. Again, something entirely lost on Ms Irvine, although pointed out to her at the time.
As for the SIPP loans to BLP/BLPI, they were imprudent, unsecured and non-commercial, on any view. They did no more than feed into a Ponzi scheme that was bound to fail. The most cursory due diligence (which HM accepts it was required to undertake, but clearly didn’t) would have revealed the true nature of what was going on and investments would never have gone ahead. The JH Complaint raised this issue though HM declined to comment on the basis that it was not necessary to do so as JH had not been involved with BLP/BLPI loans. HM has presumably since offered an explanation to complainants who were involved. Quite what their explanation can be is unclear. Ms Irvine has presumably addressed the matter and would be able to explain(?).
In anticipation of the obvious request to produce copies of the searches it suggests were made at Companies House (or wherever, which would go some way to resolving matters), HM volunteered that:
“It was not … [our] … standard process to print off specific Company House Searches and supporting documentation for each investment a member was making. Our Technical Team will however have carried out the appropriate HMRC requirement checks.”
HM did not offer any other evidence of these “Searches” or “appropriate HMRC requirement checks” such as Companies House invoices, internal payment records or contemporary attendance notes (or whatever), and neither did Ms Irvine ask them to do so.
Some have questioned whether this was good practice for a SIPP provider, as a pre-curser to paying away some £19m of client funds, or whether HM might have been expected to undertake a more rigorous enquiry (or, in reality, any enquiry at all). Ms Irvine, however, found HM’s explanation (that it had carried out Company House Searches and appropriate HMRC requirement checks but had deliberately kept no copy or other record of them) to be “reasonable”. No mention of the nature of “the appropriate HMRC requirement checks” allegedly carried out in respect of the Dubai and Shannon Shores investment vehicles. Although the issue was raised by JH (before the PO Determination), Ms Irvine was oblivious.
The truth is that HM carried out little or no diligence in respect of the investments into which it poured some £19m of its clients’ money, for whatever reasons.
Even if HM had really undertaken the limited due diligence that it maintains it was obliged to do, it is difficult to reconcile how this could ever be seen to be adequate (in terms of basic trustee obligations) in the light of the sums involved and the preponderance of its clients’ funds over those invested by other BL clients in the same schemes. Specifically:
There were also 109 HM SIPP investor loans to BLP/BLPI (aggregating to £5.92m) which HM authorized between February 2008 and March 2010. As far as can be ascertained, the BLP/BLPI loans amounted in total to c£20.7m of which HM’s clients numbered 27% by number and 29% by value.
HM has gone further by accepting that it was required to take “steps to obtain and retain appropriate title to the various assets held … [in its SIPPs] …”.
In reality, HM also failed in this regard, specifically:
(a) JV2 was incorporated with a share capital of £100 divided into 100 £1 shares. This is the picture that would have been revealed by any company search HM carried out between May and September 2007, when its SIPP clients’ money was invested. On any view of the matter, JV2 was not a “genuinely diverse commercial vehicle”, which was an essential qualification if the returns that HM investors had been promised were to be received free of tax. In December 2007, JV2’s capital was re-organized, though not as investors might have hoped.
Investors were promised shares pro-rata their commitments. Shares would each have a nominal value of £1,000 and one share would be issued for every £1,000 invested. In this way, if nothing else, investors would have tangible assets and the comfort of knowing that they would between them enjoy an element of control. An investor who committed £90,000, for example, would receive 90 x £1,000 shares, and so on. HM was privy to the proposed arrangements and was content for their clients to proceed. In coming to that decision, it maintains that it carried out company searches against JV2 with which it was satisfied; albeit those searches would have clearly demonstrated that the company’s capital structure would not allow this to be achieved.
In the event, investors’ cash safely in hand, BL chose instead to re-gig matters to divide investor funds between worthless shares and a newly conceived, equally worthless, loan note. To this end, in December 2007, it increased the company’s share capital to £1,724, divided into 100 “A” and 1,624 “B” shares, each of £1. The B shares had no right to participate at any level, whether in decision making, dividends or in a winding up. They are valueless. The A shares had complete control and entitlement to the company’s assets on winding up.
The A shares were issued to BLP and the B shares allotted to investors, on a “£1 share per £1,000 invested” basis. The balance of investor cash was ascribed to the new loan note. As such, an investor who, for example, had invested £90,000 and been promised 90 shares of £1,000 each (with traditional shareholder rights) was issued with 90 entirely valueless shares of £1 each, while the balance of their money (£89,910) was ascribed to a worthless loan note.
It is fair to say that in March 2008, BL circulated a copy of the loan note to its clients, it was in the context of a long since consummated deal which everyone considered well concluded and no-one gave it any thought (as MBL/MD doubtless intended).
If HM undertook any due diligence at all, then it would have seen BL’s inability to deliver what it was promising. The truth is that HM did nothing at all but rely on BL’s blandishments before paying away its clients’ money.
Essentially, if HM had:
(i) carried out the Companies House searches and appropriate HMRC requirement checks that it suggests it did, and
(ii) taken “… steps to obtain and retain … appropriate title to the …. assets “that it purchased on its clients behalf (the JV2 shares, which never existed),
the investment would never have proceeded and its clients’ losses would have been avoided. HM did nothing and Ms Irvine was not interested.
(b) JV3 was incorporated with a share capital of £1000 divided into 1000 x £1 shares, of which 2 were issued, one to each of MBL and MD who were also the sole directors. It was never a “genuinely diverse investment vehicle.” As such, should a profit have been generated it would, at best, not have been received tax free – at worst the arrangement would have given rise to a 55% tax charge for HM clients. In the event there will be no profit.
As with JV2, investors were to become meaningful shareholders (with their investments represented by shares in the company with equivalent nominal value - £2,538m equating to 2538 shares of £1,000 each). In the event, the capital remains unaltered at £1000 with 2 issued shares (ownership of which is uncertain). HM would have been privy to what had been promised and as such should have been concerned that their “ company searches ” and “appropriate HMRC requirement checks” revealed that the company was not structured to deliver.
HM SIPP clients were promised 1,459 shares of £1,000 in the company, though received nothing at all. Other BL cash clients were promised 1,079 similar shares but were likewise disappointed.
To compound matters, the various subsequently filed accounts of the company not only have no record of BL clients as shareholders but also do not even recognize them as creditors - they are invisible. HM has excused itself from culpability on the basis that it was not required to undertake any form of post investment due diligence.
(c) In the cases of Dubai and Shannon Shores, investors were promised shares in far flung entities about which very little has ever been known, and which almost certainly had and have nothing to show for the monies they received. HM has thus far failed to disclose what “appropriate HMRC requirement checks” (or company searches) it undertook in the case of these companies, or what due diligence it undertook, if at all. This obvious issue was raised by JH in the context of his complaint though Ms Irvine was not interested.
Dave White’s email of 2nd November 2010
On 2nd November 2010, well after his SIPPs’ funds had been paid away and faced with angry demands for explanations from his worried clients, Dave White (HM’s CEO) wrote to MBL/MD seeking basic information about the BL investments / investment vehicles into which he had invested his clients’ money. He would not have needed to write as he did had his office really undertaken the (even limited) due diligence that it maintains it did. The email demonstrates beyond doubt (and there is much more in the same vein) that HM simply had no idea to what it had so freely committed some £19m of its clients’ money. In particular:
In this case Mr. White sought confirmation that:
“… this trading company has now been wound up and distributions made to shareholders.”
It is here relevant to note that HM had invested £1.339m of its clients’ money into the scheme and (jointly with its clients) was supposed to hold 82.5% of the issued shares (in the event, they held very little at all). All returns from the investment would have been paid to HM as the SIPP provider. This demonstrates yet another total lack of involvement. In fact, the entire proceeds of the development had been misappropriated by MBL/MD over a year before and his clients had been pressing for explanations as to the whereabouts of their funds ever since. Furthermore, it is also noteworthy that JV2 (and JV3) were never intended to be “trading companies”. If they were, tax would have been payable on any profits generated (which was specifically what was not intended).
In the case of JV3, Mr. White says:
“We need to understand the structure of this investment. Until very recently we were unaware that for each £1,000 investment there is a £1 share and £999 loan stock/loan notes. This is essentially a loan between the company and the shareholder. We need to be able to correctly document the structure of this investment. Can you please provide us with full details of the legal structure of the investment (after which we will be in a position to provide you with the appropriate investment application form)?”
The following observations are self evident:
(a) The investment was originally sold on the basis of every £1,000 commitment attracting a share of that value. As far as is known this never changed (the variation to which Mr. White refers related to JV2, not JV3) – indeed if, even in November 2010, he had troubled to search at Companies House, he would have seen that the share capital of the company remained at £1,000, that MBL/MD were the only shareholders and that the company’s filed accounts made no reference to the supposed investor loans.
(b) By November 2010, HM had sanctioned the investment of £1.339m of its clients’ funds into JV3, yet it did not know “the structure of the investment”.
(c) Although by November 2010 HM’s SIPP clients were not being paid and it was being inundated with complaints, it was nevertheless prepared to consider further investments.
In the case of Dubai, Mr. White wrote as follows:
“ … I believe that … [these investments] … are the purchase of unlisted shares in Gulfstream companies. Do you have copies of historical accounts for these companies that you could let me have? We need to be able to demonstrate the value of the shares at the time of purchase – do you know whether the company / its shares were valued? Do you know whether any of the SIPP members were / are connected to the company or a controlling director of the company?”
This extract clearly demonstrates that:
(a) HM accepts that when the original investments were made, it was incumbent on it to secure information about the standing of the companies involved, but that it failed to do so, and
(b) Mr White concedes that HM never enquired whether its SIPP clients were “connected” with the companies into which they were allowed to invest. HM has accepted, however, that this “connection” issue is one of the few that it should have been concerned with at the outset, and says that it carried out “appropriate HMRC requirement checks” with regard to the “issues of control and connection.” Matters are further confused by HM’s subsequent statement of November 2012 that:
“[HM] … carried out appropriate checks which confirmed that the overseas investment vehicles were properly incorporated and registered in Mauritius and that the transaction would be at arms length … [and the investors would not be] … connected to or likely to have a controlling share in … [the Dubai investment vehicles] … as required by HMRC.”
Not long before November 2010, HM had sanctioned the investment of £1.473m of its clients’ money into the Shannon Shores adventure. It maintains that before doing so, it had “carried out … appropriate … requirement checks … to ensure compliance with HMRC… control and connection … requirements.”
Yet, on the 2nd November 2010, Mr White writes to MBL/MD in the following terms:
“I am unsure about this investment - … is there a prospectus, contract or agreement describing the nature of the investment and its legal structure?”
Mr. White’s email (of which the above are extracts - it extends to 3 pages) is but one excoriating snapshot of the overall picture as appears clearly from the available paperwork. All of this was drawn to the attention of Ms Irvine in the context of the JH Complaint, though she chose to ignore it.
Between 2007 and the end of 2009, HM facilitated 130 loans from its clients’ SIPPs into BLP/BLPI, totalling £5.92m. Within that period, it also waived through 23 investments of £1.34m in JV2, 27 totalling £1,46m in JV3, 130 of £8.58m in Dubai and 22 of £1,47m in Shannon Shores. With other exotica, it amounted to c.£21m - in reality, without a scintilla of meaningful due diligence.
For its part HM maintains that it did undertake an element of due diligence and refers frequently to “Our Technical Team”, without being more specific about what precisely that amounted to. HM is believed to have had some technical support in Leicester though, as the PO concluded in her Determination, it served a less than conservative approach to the monitoring of client investments. The suspicion in the industry is that there was little meaningful “Technical Team” support in the case of proposed BL investments.
The HM/BL relationship was apparently principally managed from the HM end by Elaine Turtle. She was a director of Hornbuckle Mitchell Trustees Ltd and there are concerns as to her close relationship with MD.
When inklings of BL’s parlous state began to emerge in early 2010, a spotlight was applied to the groups’ filed accounts, in the hope of being able to discover where client money had gone. The accounts were fictions and needed to be re-drawn. BL’s last accountants (The Bryant Partnership) had resigned amid acrimony at the end of 2010 (their letters of resignation are revealing) and MBL/MD called on NF to assist. BL’s internal records were hopeless and were difficult to reconcile with the accounts that had been filed. MBL/MD insisted that all was not what it seemed, that all was fundamentally in order and that the apparent problem was a consequence of the incompetence and misunderstanding of their recently departed accountant (The Bryant Partnership). In extremis, with the need to recast group accounts immediately, NF accepted MBL/MD’s assurances and proceeded accordingly. NF trusted MBL/MD but they misled him as they had all of their clients. In reliance on the information provided to him by MBL/MD, the accounts that NF recast were as flawed as those they replaced. In due course, NF became aware of the deception, to his cost. It is generally accepted that NF acted in good faith.
The point of including the above at this point is to demonstrate the close relationship between Elaine Turtle and MBL/MD. In March 2011, NF had been involved in the reconstruction of BL accounts for months and needed to be paid something on account of his work. At a meeting in Guildford on 16th March 2011 with MBL/MD (at which, to NF’s surprise, Elaine Turtle was present) NF demanded a payment of £15,000, which MBL/MD said that they were unable to make. It was important – without payment NF could not justify continuing with his work and worse would follow. Without apparent prompting, Elaine Turtle offered to pay the bill (£15,000) and promptly issued her personal cheque in settlement, saying by way of justification that “she had done well out of the matter” (or words to that effect). A copy of her cheque is available.
It is unknown precisely when Elaine Turtle left HM or whether she was still employed by it in March 2011. What is known is that she ceased to be a director of Hornbuckle Mitchell Trustees Limited in March 2010, a year before her act of munificence in settling NF’s fees.
HM – ongoing SIPP administration
The losses suffered by HM’s SIPP clients have been huge, in some cases total and often with devastating personal consequences. Subsequently, despite an earlier moratorium, HM began demanding payment of its past and present management fees without regard to the dramatic reduction in the value of the funds managed or the circumstances of its clients. In some cases HM demanded payment of its fees and threatened its clients with court action if unpaid. In many instances, HM required its straitened clients to fund their empty SIPPs for the sole purpose of paying its fees. Whether this continues to be HM's present policy is unclear. Either way, the obvious solution would be for clients to wind up their SIPPs, but there is a problem. To close a SIPP requires its assets to be firstly transferred to another SIPP provider, and that is the difficulty. No respectable provider would contemplate being associated with the BL investments that HM allowed. Simply, as things stand, if a SIPP’s total assets cannot be transferred, then it cannot be closed, and as such, HM will continue to consider itself entitled to demand payment of its fees.
The issue is the toxic assets. If they could somehow be removed (or written off – as opposed to being ascribed a “nil” valuation) then SIPPs which had otherwise been stripped of value could be closed and in the case of those with remaining assets of value, these could be transferred to another provider. JH had substantial toxic assets in his SIPP and proposed to transfer them for no consideration to an “unconnected” party – something that he is technically allowed to do at any price (irrespective of market value). Thereafter he would have been free to close his SIPP and move his remaining assets elsewhere. When he first proposed the idea to HM in September 2013, it was rejected as unlawful. JH is a retired commercial property lawyer with very little knowledge of the pensions industry. HM, it says in its literature, are experts in the field. In October 2013, however, HM conceded that what JH proposed was lawful albeit subsequently took to procrastination and refused to process his transfer request. In frustration, in March 2014 JH complained to the PO and the matter dragged on from there. Finally, in March 2015 (some 18 months after JH's original request) HM conceded the issue albeit dressed up its capitulation as some form of compromise. That might have been the end of the matter, though sadly not. HM subsequently reverted to type and resorted to more procrastination - submitting wholly inappropriate paperwork and demonstrating an ongoing complete lack of understanding of pension law. JH proffered the proper paperwork (2013) and offered advice, though initially to no avail. Eventually, HM conceded the issue and the transfer was completed and his SIPP closed. While JH has repeated his advice to other HM clients, it is unknown how many have been successful in extricating themselves.
Now that HM has apparently changed hands, it is possible that the above (in terms of policy and practice) is out of date and if Embark Services would care to respond accordingly the necessary adjustments will be made to this Story.
City of London Police
In 2011 the City of London Police became involved. Detective Superintendent Bob Wishart of the force met with members of the BLIG committee on 18th July who then and subsequently provided him with relevant paperwork evidencing undeniable criminality on the part of MBL and MD. Essentially, they were clearly guilty of theft, fraud, Companies Act violations and false accounting. In due course, as details of their secret Dubai/Canada commissions emerged the charge list was enlarged to include tax fraud and money laundering. At this stage PO’S was also implicated in the money laundering allegations.
The BLIG committee suspected from the outset that DS Wishart was lukewarm in his approach to the matter. The general impression was that he considered it to be no more than a relatively low value caper (£35m) undertaken by low value crooks (MBL/MD/PO’S and another) who were not worth the expense of pursuit, particularly when there was so much more important crime to be addressed. The FCA (then the FSA) had already announced that it was mounting an enquiry into the whole affair and DS Wishart’s delegate, Detective Chief Inspector Daniel Medlycott quickly elected to suspend further consideration pending the issue of its report.
In October 2013 the FCA issued damning conclusions from its investigations of the activities of MBL/MD. The pair were fined £885,000 and banned from the financial industry and as company directors for the foreseeable future. It is noteworthy that the FCA has always been concerned with breaches of its codes of conduct, with no particular emphasis upon issues of criminality. That said, to have condemned MBL/MD in the comprehensive terms it did is relevant.
The FCA’s decisions having been published, DCI Medlycott was urged to press on with his enquiries. In October 2014, a year later, he advised that, in the opinion of the City of London Police, there was insufficient evidence of criminality to justify taking the matter further. Subsequently, however, they have agreed to re-visit the matter should MBL return.
The City of London Police’s inactivity was predicted at the outset.
It has more recently been suggested that the Serious Fraud Office has instigated an investigation into the BL/Dubai adventure which is also the subject of civil proceedings. Further details are being sought.
The complete BL computer hard drive (including its SAGE accounts) has been accessible from the outset. It reveals a complete shambles, consistent with what emerged as the MBL/MD style of asset management/business administration. As such while, in one form or another, most information has always ultimately been available, the task of actually finding it has proved more difficult.
Accordingly, it wasn’t until the summer of 2013 that NF unearthed the secret commissions of c£2.5m that SC and BK had paid to MBL\MD as a reward for unquestionably funnelling some £20m of their clients” funds to them, largely via HM (in Dubai and Canada). It is unrealistic to believe that there were not others.
MBL/MD, with the assistance of PO’S, were clearly anxious to avoid any involvement with HMRC and as such the payments were routed via a Marshall Islands Company (set up by PO’S and of which MBL/MD were the directors) which in turn directed the cash to IGL’s account with HSBC in Petersfield, Hants. Where the money went from there is largely unclear. As appears above, the evidence of this arrangement is undeniable.
In short, by the above arrangements, MBL/MD and PO’S defrauded HMRC out of the tax otherwise payable on their “commissions”. Inevitably, there was more.
NF contacted HMRC and provided them with a comprehensive dossier of the above which included copy relevant email exchanges, invoices, details of IGL’s account with HSBC and other accounts of relevance.
On the 8th January 2014 NF and JH met with Mark Pollard of HMRC and his colleague, Venetia Greenfield at the offices of Kingston Smith in the City. Kingston Smith are/were the trustees in bankruptcy of MBL. Mr Pollard is a senior HMRC operative and had clearly considered the papers submitted to him. He agreed that MBL/MD are undeniably guilty of serious tax evasion. NF and JH were, however, surprised by Mr Pollard’s prognosis. He anticipated that, notwithstanding the unquestionable guilt of MBL/MD and PO’S (and most likely, others) it was unlikely that HMRC would pursue the matter given the lack of any prospect of a financial recovery: essentially, MBL/MD/PO’S (and at least one other) would be allowed to walk free if, in financial terms, any pursuit would not produce a financial dividend. Put another way, if criminals such as MBL, MD and PO'S (and at least one other) who are proved to be guilty of fraud can secrete their ill gotten gains away then they will be allowed to walk free - to do the same again. To be fair, Mr Pollard prefaced his comments by saying that this was not necessarily his view of how the matter should proceed but what he anticipated his superiors would decide.
And then the matter went quiet. JH subsequently sought information from HMRC as to how its investigation (?) was proceeding though was predictably rebuffed on the basis (essentially) of confidentiality.
There the matter might have quietly died, as HMRC clearly intended that it should, but for the timeous intervention of a very senior HMRC executive, a close friend of JH to whom he had previously casually voiced his concerns. Confidentially, JH was advised that at the very outset, the matter had been filed away and that any enquiry would be deflected on the basis of confidentiality. Whatever David Cameron's fine rhetoric this was strictly in accordance with HMRC policy.
So much for the Conservative’s "war on tax evaders". JH wrote to Cameron by way of complaint in November 2014, expecting a “hand off” which duly came in the form of a pro-forma, one size fits all response from an unnamed "correspondence officer", advising that the PM was too busy to deal with trivia but that the relevant authority would be looking into the matter. Thereafter there was more correspondence (entirely initiated by JH) which took the matter no further albeit which brought Cameron into yet greater contempt. The matter went on with HMRC doggedly avoiding the real issue (why has it not prosecuted MBL/MD/PO’S (and at least one other) but allowed them to walk free with their ill gotten gains) though was ultimately explained in May 2015 by Dave Thomas, an HMRC Complaints Officer, who advised that HMRC was precluded from taking matters further without the consent of MBL/MD/PO’S (and the other)! In the words of a well known polemicist, "you couldn't make it up!"
In short, HMRC has the power to trace the funds received into IGL’s account with HSBC which might facilitate the recovery of lost tax. Furthermore, it is able to identify where the money went which might prove relevant in terms of claims for redress on the part of BL investors. There are suggestions of other irregular payments which, when corroborated, will take matters to another level.
Above all, HMRC has a duty to the public to do what Cameron espoused, to prosecute tax evaders and unearth wrongdoing which palpably it has no intention of doing, as doubtless Cameron well knew. Cameron having gone, it was hoped Theresa May might be persuaded to more, though she has proved to be no better. But there are no time limits in terms of fraud (or the memories of those defrauded) and future more respectable regimes will continue to be pressed to adopt a more responsible approach.
HMRC has accepted that as and when MBL returns to the UK it will reconsider the matter (both in terms of MBL/MD/PO’S and at least one other). The BLIG will continue to monitor the position and hold HMRC to its commitment. Likewise the City of London Police have confirmed that they have not filed their papers – they will likewise be held to account.
Generally, this is an ongoing pursuit and any information of relevance should be sent to Julian Holy for inclusion in future versions of The Story
TO BE CONTINUED