Press release

High Court orders £50 million phantom companies into liquidation

A web of ‘construction and civil engineering’ companies with reported combined sales of over £50 million and assets of £8.4 million, but run solely as instruments of fraud to obtain credit by filing false accounts and other false information, have been ordered into liquidation on grounds of public interest following an investigation by the Insolvency Service.

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Petitions to wind up the companies were issued and presented by the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation & Skills, following confidential enquiries carried out by Company Investigations, part of the Insolvency Service.

The Court heard how some 15 ready made companies had been bought off the shelf from two company formation agents by a person calling himself Jonathan Hunting.

Although the companies were dormant and had never traded whilst under the control of the formation agents, when bought and activated by the new owner fictitious directors were appointed and the dates of their appointments back-dated by several years to the date of incorporation of the relevant company in order to lend legitimacy to the false accounts filed by the new owner reporting significant assets and trading since incorporation by some of the companies.

The companies had no physical presence at their registered offices located in different parts of the country and ostensibly each was independently owned and operated.

Typically this type of fraud can inflict losses on legitimate business of around £200,000 or in one recent case as much as $7 million by the company on that occasion dishonestly securing the supply of band width technology for text messaging services.

Welcoming the Court’s winding up decisions Chris Mayhew, Company Investigations Supervisor, said:

These supposedly unrelated companies had no legitimate purpose and existed solely to seek to obtain easily disposable goods on credit including expensive motor vehicles on lease finance with no intention of paying for them.

False accounts were filed by some of the companies to create the impression that they were substantial and credit worthy businesses and had been trading profitably for a number of years which the investigation found to be blatantly untrue. Where no trading accounts had been filed the first step, backdating the date of the director’s appointment, had been taken to continue with the fraud.

I would urge businesses approached for credit to question why a potential new corporate customer would choose to back date the appointment of its recorded officers and to file accounts showing significant trading and assets at a time when clearly the company was still on the shelf of the company formation agent dormant awaiting sale.

We work closely with a number of partners such as Companies House to prevent the abuse of the corporate regime by such deliberate lack of transparency and the Insolvency Service will continue to investigate and bring to a halt companies harming or about to harm legitimate business by operating in this way.

Notes to Editors:

The petitions to wind-up the companies were presented under section 447 of the Companies Act 1985, as amended.

  • Artists Avenue Agency Ltd (company registration number 007480475) was incorporated on 31 December 2010.

    The registered office of the company is 53 Fountain Street, Manchester, M2 2AN (changed on 29 December 2015 from 40 Bank Street, London, E14 5NR). The present sole recorded director is Jeremy Arthur Sloane (described as an engineering consultant). The company was inactive with dormant accounts filed by the formation agents until sold by them in December 2013 after which the company’s accounts filed by the new owner purported to show turnover since incorporation (albeit initially dormant) of £3,545,845 and total assets as at 31 December 2013 of £579,990.

  • Britannia Bespoke Ltd (company registration number 07462690) was incorporated on 7 December 2010.

    The registered office of the company is Albion Park, Armley Road, Leeds, LS12 2EJ. The present sole recorded director is Edward Fitzgerald (described as an engineer). The company was inactive with dormant accounts filed by the formation agent until sold by them in December 2013 after which the company’s accounts filed by the new owner purported to show turnover since incorporation (albeit initially dormant) of £4,297,561 and total assets as at 31 December 2013 of £948,020.

The above two companies were purchased ‘off the shelf’ from the company formation agent by an individual called Jonathan Hunting (introduced by a Jude Baffoe) together with three other shelf companies that were similarly dormant and had never traded, namely: Ecophy Ltd (company registration number 07340875), which was subsequently dissolved on 24 March 2015 owing at least £17,214; Juno Consultancy Overseas Ltd (company registration number 07634668), which was subsequently ordered into liquidation on 11 May 2015 owing some £211,763; and Cabalian Baldwin & Co Ltd (company registration number 07686609), which was subsequently ordered into liquidation on 13 October 2015 on the petition of Mr Bafoe’s company claiming £99,405 for the supply of steel sections. The reported combined turnover of these three companies was purportedly some £18.3 million with total assets apparently of some £4.3 million.

  • Peakshire Limited (company registration number 07372486) was incorporated on 10 September 2010.

    The registered office of Peakshire Limited is 60 Gresham Street, London, EC2V 7BB. The present sole recorded director is Ezra Matthewson (described as a company director). The company was inactive with dormant accounts filed by the formation agent until sold by him in April 2014 after which the company’s accounts filed by the new owner purported to show turnover since incorporation (albeit initially dormant) of £6,120,664 and total assets as at 30 September 2013 of £989,417. The company operated a website www.peakshire.co.uk

On this occasion the company was purchased from a different company formation agent by the person calling himself Jonathan Hunting in April 2014 together with two other shelf companies, Colelane Limited and Haleborough Limited (each referred to below).

Mr Hunting had earlier purchased from the same agent a dormant shelf company called Glenster Limited (company registration number 07349123) in March 2014. That company was ordered into liquidation on 18 February 2015. The reported overall turnover of Glenster Limited was purportedly some £5.6 million with apparent total assets as at 31 August 2013 of just over a £1 million.

In September 2014 Mr Hunting purchased a further 10 shelf companies (each referred to below) from the same agent which again were dormant at the time having never traded whilst awaiting purchase.

  • Colelane Limited (company registration number 07604631) was incorporated on 14 April 2011.

    The registered office of the company is Level 30, The Leadenhall Building, 122 Leadenhall Street, London, EC3V 4AB. The present sole recorded director is George Llewellyn (described as a company director). The company was inactive with dormant accounts filed by the formation agent until sold by him in April 2014 after which the company’s accounts filed by the new owner purported to show turnover since incorporation (albeit initially dormant) of £5,806,946 and total assets as at 30 April 2014 of £973,016. The company operated a website www.colelane.co.uk

  • Haleborough Limited (company registration number 07604631) was incorporated on 10 September 2010.

    The registered office of the company is 450 Brook Drive, Reading, RG2 6UU. The present sole recorded director is Andrew Ginsburg (described as a company director). The company was inactive with dormant accounts filed by the formation agent until sold by him in April 2014 after which the company’s accounts filed by the new owner purported to show turnover since incorporation (albeit initially dormant) of £5,413,721 and total assets as at 30 September 2013 of £1,182,021. The company operated a website www.haleborough.contractor

  • Leonworth Limited (company registration number 07398149) was incorporated on 06 October 2010.

    The registered office of the company is 1 Friary, Temple Quay, Bristol, BS1 6EA (changed on 4 January 2016 from Atrium Court, The Ring, Bracknell, Berkshire, RG12 1BW). The present sole recorded director is Anthony Williams (described as a civil engineer). The company was inactive with dormant accounts filed by the formation agent until sold by him in September 2014 after which the company’s accounts filed by the new owner purported to show turnover since incorporation (albeit initially dormant) of £11,947,519 and total assets as at 31 October 2014 of £1,900,661. The company operated a website www.leonworth.co.uk

  • Thornetech Limited (company registration number 07044976) was incorporated on 15 October 2009.

    The registered office of the company is Brunel House, Fitzalan Road, Cardiff, CF24 OEB. The present sole recorded director is Henry Llyods-Brown (described as a civil engineer). The company was inactive with dormant accounts filed by the formation agent until sold by him in September 2014 after which the company’s accounts filed by the new owner purported to show turnover since incorporation (albeit initially dormant) of £13,564,168 and total assets as at 31 October 2014 of £1,806,900. The company operated a website www.thornetech.co.uk

  • Sladeborough Limited (company registration number 07262224) was incorporated on 15 April 2010.

    The registered office of the company is Meridien House, 69-71 Clarendon Road, Watford, Hertfordshire, WD17 1DS. The present sole recorded director is James Britten-Hale (described as a civil engineer). The company was inactive with dormant accounts filed by the formation agent until sold by him in September 2014. No accounts have since been filed and the next accounts are due to be filed on 31 January 2016.

  • Wardleigh Limited (company registration number 07262224) was incorporated on 21 May 2010.

    The registered office of the company is 3 Hardman Square, Spinningfields, Manchester, M3 3EB. The present sole recorded director is Andrew Cohen (described as a civil engineer). The company was inactive with dormant accounts filed by the formation agent until sold by him in September 2014. No accounts have since been filed and the next accounts are due to be filed on 29 February 2016.

  • Bromshire Limited (company registration number 07272810) was incorporated on 03 June 2010.

    The registered office of the company is 23 Hanover Square, London, W1S 1JB. The present sole recorded directors are Gary Ross Cooper (described as a company director) and George Middleton (described as a civil engineer). The company was inactive with dormant accounts filed by the formation agent until sold by him in September 2014. No accounts have since been filed and the next accounts are due to be filed on 31 March 2016.

  • Argentum Villages Limited (company registration number 07337606) was incorporated on 05 August 2010.

    The registered office of the company is 200 Aldersgate Street, London, EC1A 4HD. The present sole recorded director is John Winslow (described as a civil engineer). The company was inactive with dormant accounts filed by the formation agent until sold by him in September 2014. No accounts have since been filed and the next accounts are due to be filed on 31 May 2016.

  • Brentgreen Limited (company registration number 07338067) was incorporated on 06 August 2010.

    The registered office of the company is One Temple Quay, Temple Back East, Bristol, BS1 6DZ. The present sole recorded director is Peter Blake (described as a civil engineer). The company was inactive with dormant accounts filed by the formation agent until sold by him in September 2014. No accounts have since been filed and the next accounts are due to be filed on 31 May 2016.

  • Haleshire Limited (company registration number 07338346) was incorporated on 06 August 2010.

    The registered office of the company is 2 Snow Hill, Queensway, Birmingham, B4 6GA. The present sole recorded director is Enoch Peel (described as a civil engineer). The company was inactive with dormant accounts filed by the formation agent until sold by him in September 2014. No accounts have since been filed and the next accounts are due to be filed on 31 May 2016.

  • Northring Limited (company registration number 07337992) was incorporated on 06 August 2010.

    The registered office of the company is No 1 Leeds, 26 Whitehall Road, Leeds, LS12 1BE. The present sole recorded director is Michael Arthur Quist (described as a civil engineer). The company was inactive with dormant accounts filed by the formation agent until sold by him in September 2014. No accounts have since been filed and the next accounts are due to be filed on 31 May 2016.

  • Sandiheath Limited (company registration number 07534464) was incorporated on 18 February 2011.

    The registered office of the company is Horton House, Exchange Flags, Liverpool, L2 3PF. The present sole recorded director is Rijkman Van Duin (described as a civil engineer). The company was inactive with dormant accounts filed by the formation agent until sold by him in September 2014. No accounts have since been filed and were due to be filed on 30 November 2015.

The petitions to wind up the 15 companies in the public interest were each presented on 17 September 2015. The petition issued against Britannia Bespoke Ltd was supported by a steel supplier claiming £96,733 and which also supported the petition issued against Leonworth Limited claiming £81,144. The supporting creditor’s director Jude Bafoe was present at the hearing of the Secretary of State’s petitions and had earlier indicated to that his company was also owed money by Colelane Limited. Mr Bafoe’s company had earlier petitioned to wind up Cabalian Baldwin & Co Ltd (see above).

The public interest ground for winding up the 15 companies was that they were being used as vehicles for the commission of fraud.

In ordering the companies into liquidation on grounds of public interest on 28 January 2016 Mr Registrar Briggs said:

… in my judgement the Secretary of State’s case is made out … there is a deliberate attempt to hoodwink those who rely on documents filed at Companies House … the whole point of having an open registry is so that those accessing the register can rely on the accuracy of the information presented … the information laid before Companies House here is clearly false and this shows a complete lack of commercial probity … in my view it is just and equitable that the companies be wound up, and obviously so, and I do so order”.

Companies House deals with complaints about companies that fail to file documents like annual accounts or returns, or file fraudulent documents. If you suspect a company of breaking the law on the filing of documents, email the details to fraud@companieshouse.gov.uk

Company Investigations, part of the Insolvency Service, uses powers under the Companies Act 1985 to conduct confidential fact-finding investigations into the activities of live limited companies in the UK on behalf of the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS). Further information about live company investigations is available here.

The Insolvency Service administers the insolvency regime, investigating all compulsory liquidations and individual insolvencies (bankruptcies) through the Official Receiver to establish why they became insolvent. It may also use powers under the Companies Act 1985 to conduct confidential fact-finding investigations into the activities of live limited companies in the UK. In addition, the agency authorises and regulates the insolvency profession, deals with disqualification of directors in corporate failures, assesses and pays statutory entitlement to redundancy payments when an employer cannot or will not pay employees, provides banking and investment services for bankruptcy and liquidation estate funds and advises ministers and other government departments on insolvency law and practice. Further information about the work of the Insolvency Service, and how to complain about financial misconduct, is available.

By virtue of the appointment of the Official Receiver all public enquiries concerning the affairs of the companies should be made to: The Official Receiver, Public Interest Unit , 4 Abbey Orchard Street, London, SW1P 2HT. Telephone: 0207 637 1110; email: piu.or@insolvency.gsi.gov.uk

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Published 2 February 2016