Press release

14-year ban for Brazilian social housing investment boss

Court bans boss of a company that offered investment opportunities in Brazilian social housing for 14 years after misleading his clients.

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Anthony Jon Domingo Armstrong-Emery (41) failed to appear at the High Court on 15 March 2019, where Chief registrar Briggs handed down a Disqualification Order in his absence.

Effective from 6 April, Anthony Armstrong-Emery is banned for 14 years from directly or indirectly becoming involved, without the permission of the court, in the promotion, formation or management of a company.

The court heard that Anthony Armstrong-Emery, who has links to Gibraltar, and his colleague, Charles Valentine Fraser-Macnamara (60), from Halesowen, West Midlands, were directors of Ecohouse Developments Ltd.

Incorporated in May 2010, the company offered investments in the construction of social housing in Brazil, under the ‘Mihna Casa, Mihna Vida’ scheme. Investors would typically pay £23,000 per unit and would expect to receive their capital plus a 20% return 12 months later.

People were encouraged to invest by marketing literature and contracts that claimed Ecohouse owned the land the social housing was being built upon and the investment was secure. Investors were also told the exit strategy was backed by the government and Ecohouse was an approved supplier.

In May 2013, however, concerns about the company were posted online and by January 2015, Ecohouse Developments was placed into liquidation as it could not pay its debts, owing more than 350 investors circa £21 million.

The liquidation triggered an investigation by the Insolvency Service into the company and the conduct of the directors.

While Charles Fraser-Macnamara, a solicitor who has since been struck off, elected to provide a disqualification undertaking for nine years to the Secretary of State in January 2017 for his misconduct in running the company, Anthony Armstrong-Emery chose to dispute the allegations.

However, the court upheld there was no evidence to show Ecohouse owned the land or had the right to ensure that any land owned by a third party should be transferred to it and that marketing materials were misleading and inaccurate.

The court also heard that the two directors had caused Ecohouse to maintain inadequate accounting records and did not deliver these to the liquidators.

As a result, the liquidators were unable to explain several substantial transactions, including payments to Anthony Armstrong-Emery worth more than £450,000, foreign payments totalling just over £11 million, credit card payments worth over £1 million and payments to a connected company worth £2.8 million.

Cheryl Lambert, Chief Investigator for the Insolvency Service, said:

Members of the public thought they were getting a great deal but were unfortunately tricked into investing into a company that provided false and misleading information.

The evidence against the directors was substantial and while Anthony Armstrong-Emery thought he could evade our enquiries as he lived abroad, the court action is testament that we will take robust action against directors who disregard their obligations.

All public enquiries concerning the affairs of the company should be made to: Cheryl Lambert, Chief Investigator, The Insolvency Service, 3rd Floor, Abbey Orchard Street, London SW1P 2HT. Tel: 0207 596 6117. Email: Cheryl.Lambert@insolvency.gov.uk.

Notes to editors

Ecohouse Developments Ltd (CRO 07268358) was incorporated on 28 May 2010 and dissolved on 14 February 2018. Its registered office before liquidation was Savoy House, Savoy Circus, London, W3 7DA.

Charles Valentine Fraser-Macnamara is of Halesowen, West Midlands, and his date of birth is July 1958.

Anthony Jon Domingo Armstrong-Emery is currently of no known unknown address but with links to an address in Gibraltar. His date of birth is September 1977.

A disqualification order has the effect that without specific permission of a court, a person with a disqualification cannot:

  • act as a director of a company
  • take part, directly or indirectly, in the promotion, formation or management of a company or limited liability partnership
  • be a receiver of a company’s property

Disqualification undertakings are the administrative equivalent of a disqualification order but do not involve court proceedings.

Persons subject to a disqualification order are bound by a range of other restrictions.

Further information about the work of the Insolvency Service, and how to complain about financial misconduct, is available.

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Published 9 May 2019