Six men have been disqualified for a combined 74 years for taking over £13m after misleading over 300 investors in a landbanking scam, which included at least three companies that sourced and supplied the land and at least two companies which acted as the sales agents
An investigation by the Official Receiver revealed that the two sales agents sold the land to members of the public for investment purposes using misleading marketing materials, in which the customers were led to believe the land would obtain planning permission and increase in value in the future. The truth was, there was no likelihood of this happening.
Commenting on the disqualifications, Matthew Stone, a Senior Examiner in the Official Receiver’s Public Interest Unit at the Insolvency Service, said:
All of the land banking companies that the Official Receiver has dealt with, have brought misery and in some instances, tragedy, to unsuspecting members of the public, who were persuaded to part with their savings in exchange for virtually worthless plots of land.
In over 7 years of investigating land banking scams, I have not seen a single piece of land that has been sold actually go on to obtain planning permission. Every single customer has lost their money in what was a horrendous investment. Whilst land can obviously be a secure investment, the way in which these companies sell it ultimately means there is no viable exit strategy for their so-called investment.
In these cases, the Insolvency Service took action not only against the sales agents, which spend a small fortune in attempting to come across as legitimate City based “commodity” brokers, but also their suppliers who caused the sales agents to market and sell the land for investment purposes.
The investigation also found that the land suppliers, MRT Land Holdings Ltd, run by Mark John Tull, its successor Boldacre Ltd and another company which actually purchased a piece of land, Raincode Ltd, were run by Mark John Tull and Carl Anthony Ballard. These companies sourced and supplied the land for onward sale by sales agents which were provided with the marketing material, including ‘white label’ brochures where the sales agents would simply insert their own name and logo.
Michael Rodney Tull, the father of Mark Tull, was appointed as a director of MRT Land Holdings Ltd but took no active part in the running of the company but was still disqualified for 7 years for his failure to carry out his responsibilities as a director.
The sales agents, including Dakota Partners International Ltd and its successor, Dakota Partners International CC Ltd, whose registered directors were Christopher Farhat Gill and Imran Rasool, received over £1.2m from its customers. In these companies, Imran Rasool took no active part in the running of the company but was also disqualified for 11 years.
Another sales agent, Century Property Group Ltd (formerly known as Century Land Group Ltd, whose registered director was Stephen John Wheeler, of Bridgwater Somerset, was run from an impressive office on the 36th floor of one of London’s well known skyscrapers, and received over £12m from unsuspecting customers.
All six directors gave undertakings to the Secretary of State for Business, Innovations and Skills not to act as directors or in any way manage or control companies as follows:
- Carl Anthony Ballard – director of Boldacre Limited and Raincode Limited disqualified for 14 years until 21 July 2028.
- Mark John Tull – director of MRT Land Holdings Limited and Boldacre Limited, was disqualified for 14 years until 7 July 2028.
- Michael Rodney Tull – director of MRT Land Holdings Limited – was disqualified for 7 years until 19 June 2021.
- Stephen John Wheeler – director of Century Property Group Limited – was disqualified for 14 years until 1 July 2028.
- Christopher Farhat Gill - director of Dakota Partners International CC Limited – was disqualified for 14 years until 25 March 2028.
- Imran Rasool - director of Dakota Partners International Limited and Dakota Partners International CC Limited – was disqualified for 11 years until 10 March 2025.
Customers purchased the plots of greenbelt land from the sales agents for anything between £7.5k and £20k per plot. The investigation revealed that the supply companies had purchased the same land for at little as £180 per plot.
The companies sold land at the following locations:
1) East of Back Lane, Newton on Ouse, York, Yorkshire YO30 2DH, described as “Beningbrough View”;
2) South of Broome Lane / East of Holy Cross Green, Holy Cross, Bromsgrove, West Midlands DY9, referred to as “Broughton View”;
3) East of Red Lees Road, Burnley, Lancashire BB10, described as the “Hollinsfield Development”;
4) East of Keys Farm / Burgh Lane, Mattishall, Norfolk NR20, described as the “Cross Keys Development, Norwich”.
5) West of Flax Lane, Burscough, Lancashire L40, described as “Flax Lane at Ormskirk, Liverpool”; and
6) North of Hammondstreet Road, Cheshunt, Waltham Cross.
The sites were greenbelt land and the respective local authorities have confirmed that the chances of the land receiving planning permission for development, as promoted by the companies, is very remote. In spite of this, the companies provided customers with misleading information designed to give false expectations.
In the case of Raincode Ltd, the company actually purchased the 13 acre piece of land at Cheshunt at auction for £100,000 equivalent to 18p per ft², with the land being sold by a well known UK house builder, as the site had no realistic prospect of achieving planning consent for residential development. The sales agents went on to sell the same land I the following months for an average of £9.48 per ft², marketing the land on the basis it was suitable for development.
The investigation also uncovered deficiencies in the books and records of all the companies. The worst being in the case of Century Property Group Ltd where there are no invoices or other relevant documentation to explain the reasons or purpose of over £3m of payments, including over £2.8m of payments made to connected associates, individuals and companies.
In the case of MRT Land Holdings Ltd there is no documentation to explain the purpose of 56 payments made from MRT’s bank accounts totalling £494,989 between 19 February 2010 and 6 April 2011, including 6 payments, totalling at least £20,500 made to Mark John Tull; and 50 payments, totalling £474,489 to Carl Anthony Ballard.
In the case of Boldacre Ltd there is no documentation to explain the purpose of 73 payments made from Boldacre’s bank accounts totalling £181,301 between 12 May 2011 and 24 April 2012, including 50 cash withdrawals totalling £121,893; 9 payments totalling £36,487 to Mark John tull and his consultancy company; 10 payments totalling £18,921, to Carl Anthony Ballard and 2 payments totalling £4,000 to an associated company.
In the case of Raincode Ltd there is no documentation to explain the purpose of 65 payments made from Raincode’s bank accounts totalling £729,880 between March 2011 and March 2012, including 34 cash withdrawals totalling £242,579; 17 payments to Mark John Tull and his consultancy company totalling £212,339; 10 payments to Carl Anthony Ballard totalling £135,511; 1 payment to a firm of Solicitors of £100,000; and 10 payments to other individuals/entities totalling £41,628.
Notes to Editors
MRT Land Holdings Limited was incorporated on 28 September 2009 and went into liquidation on 30 May 2012.
Boldacre Limited was incorporated on 10 November 2010 and went into liquidation on 30 May 2012.
Raincode Limited was incorporated on 10 November 2010 and went into liquidation on 30 May 2012.
Century Property Group Limited was incorporated on 17 October 2008, originally as Century Land Group Ltd but changed its name on 6 April 2011 to its current name, and went into liquidation on 4 April 2012.
Dakota Partners International Limited was incorporated on 15 September 2010 and went into liquidation on 30 May 2012.
Dakota Partners International CC Limited was incorporated on 8 February 2010 and went into liquidation on 30 May 2012.
Carl Anthony Ballard gave an undertaking to the Secretary of State not be a director for 14 years. The disqualification commenced on 22 July 2014.
Mark John Tull gave an undertaking to the Secretary of State not be a director for 14 years. The disqualification commences on 10 July 2014.
Michael Rodney Tull gave an undertaking to the Secretary of State not be a director for 7 years. The disqualification commenced on 20 June 2014.
Stephen John Wheeler gave an undertaking to the Secretary of State not be a director for 14 years. The disqualification commences on 2 July 2014.
Christopher Farhat Gill gave an undertaking to the Secretary of State not be a director for 14 years. The disqualification commences on 26 March 2014.
Imran Rasool gave an undertaking to the Secretary of State not be a director for 11 years. The disqualification commences on 11 March 2014.
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;
- act as an insolvency practitioner; or
- be a receiver of a company’s property.
In addition many other restrictions are placed on disqualified directors by other regulations.
Disqualification undertakings are the administrative equivalent of a disqualification order but do not involve court proceedings.
Further information on director disqualifications and restrictions can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/information-about-company-director-disqualification
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 from: https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/insolvency-service
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Published: 19 August 2014
From: The Insolvency Service