Essex and London Properties Trial Ends With 5 Guilty Verdicts

The trial of seven men involved in the Essex and London Properties scam has ended. One man pled guilty, four men were found guilty by the jury and two men were acquitted. The case was investigated and brought to court by Essex Police.

The Essex and London Properties scam persuaded ordinary investors to become limited partners in a Scottish Limited Partnership. In effect, investors were giving loans to the company at 10% annual interest. The money was supposed to be invested in UK property. More than £13m was taken in and only one property valued at around £150k was purchased. The rest of the money was stolen.

The five men who were found guilty were

MOHAMMED TANVEER

ABDUL MUKITH

FLORIAN PIERINI

MOHAMMAD HUSSAIN

JEFFREY RAZAQ

Most of these men have also been linked to other scams. The two who were acquitted were Mitchell Mallin (the company director) and Anthony Whymark (a sales agent who owned Apex Alternatives).

The five men who were convicted will be sentenced at the end of July. For a more detailed report visit this article on the Safe Or Scam blog page.

LXK Inc and Bank Of China Follow-On-Fraud – Scam Alert

A Scam Alert article has been posted on the Safe Or Scam website warning investors of a follow-on-fraud involving shares in LXK Inc.

In brief, scam sales agents (one of which was called Wellington Capital Group) sold fake shares in LXK Inc. That scam has run out of steam so they have moved into the recovery room phase which is to approach the victims and claim that their shares have been sold and a full refund is being held for them. It will be released if the investor pays the release fee.

The organisation which is overseeing these transactions is claimed to be the Bank Of China. The LXK Inc scam was originally marketed very heavily in Asia so it is no surprise to see them name-dropping Bank Of China in this follow-on-fraud.

Safe Or Scam has seen a lot of follow-on-frauds where Bank Of China is claimed to be involved in some way. For the avoidance of doubt, Bank Of China is definitely not involved.  It is a scam.

The documents that the scammers are using are very professional. The story they have put together is believable to most ordinary people. This follow-on-fraud was not put together by a couple of low-level idiots. This has all the hallmarks of an organised criminal gang operating a large call centre staffed by their own salespeople.

The full article, which includes the documents these scammers are using, can be viewed on this link to the Safe Or Scam article.

 

 

 

High Street Group loses second auditor in a year, still 18 months behind with accounts

This article below was written by the previous owner of bondreview in April 2021. It is being published because now that High Street GRP Ltd is in administration it will be interesting to see whether or not the prophecies came true. This article is 12 months old so it will obviously have been overtaken by events later in 2021.

Safe Or Scam has written two articles on the High Street GRP Ltd administration on its blog page

Lady Bracknell: Now, to minor matters. Are both your parents living?

Jack: I have lost both my parents.

Lady Bracknell: To lose one parent, Mr. Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness. I would strongly advise you, Mr. Worthing, to try and acquire some relations as soon as possible, and to make a definite effort to produce at any rate one parent, of either sex, before the season is quite over.

Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest

High Street Group has lost a second auditor in the space of a year.

A filing with Companies House indicates that Haines Watts, who signed off the December 2018 accounts for holding company High Street Grp, have resigned as auditors.

Big Four juggernaut PWC had previously resigned as auditors in September 2020.

Before resigning, Haines Watts did manage to sign off the December 2018 accounts for the holding company High Street Grp Ltd. The accounts, as reviewed here, revealed that HSGrp would have made a loss of £24.5 million in 2018, had it not dumped High Street Commercial Finance, which raised money from bondholders, out of the group and into the personal ownership of HSG owner Gary Forrest. Haines Watts however objected to this move, on the basis that this booting out actually took place on 2 January 2019, and issued an “Adverse Opinion”, the strongest black mark available to an auditor.

Whether this has anything to do with Haines Watts’ subsequent removal as auditors is unknown.

HSG’s second auditor resignation in a year leaves a considerable amount of work undone. High Street Group remains a whole year and a half overdue with the December 2018 accounts for High Street Commercial Finance, which previously raised money from its bondholders; it has also been overdue with its December 2019 accounts since last year. The High Street Grp holding company remains overdue with its December 2019 accounts.

In my original review of January 2018, I noted that:

The investment literature claims that the group made 26 million profit in 2016 and has 100 employees. This is curious, because that level of profit and workforce would require the group to file full accounts with Companies House, yet High Street Grp Ltd’s last accounts (30 December 2016) were filed under the small company regime. This means the accounts did not have to be audited or display a profit and loss statement.

High Street Group’s subsequently posted accounts for 2017 and 2018 did appear to qualify for small company exemptions thanks to its losses and negative net assets. The issue is with the claim in the literature that it had a profit of £26 million in 2016. (Which is neither confirmed nor contradicted by the relevant accounts filed with Companies House, due to the profit and loss account being withheld under small company exemptions.)

High Street Group, via their lawyers, have twice vehemently contested my joining of the dots, claiming that I had defamed them by doing so. Yet they have never attempted to explain the discrepancy between a) the results claimed in its literature b) its claiming of small company exemptions, despite me asking them directly.

High Street GRP Ltd – News

High Street Group logo

When Safe Or Scam took over the bondreview site there was one condition. We had to agree not to publish any articles about High Street GRP or any of its subsidiaries on this site.

We won’t go into the reasons because it was before our time, it’s none of our business and we aren’t particularly interested in what happened previously. We agreed because that was the deal, but now that High Street GRP is in administration we will re-publish the articles which were published by the original owner.

They’ll be out of date of course because things have moved on. We recommend that anyone interested in High Street GRP Ltd or any of the High Street Group subsidiary companies, of which there are around 100, visit the Safe Or Scam blog page because we refused to allow Safe Or Scam to be subject to the same gagging deal which prevented bondreview from publishing articles. We agreed that we would honour the bondreview agreement for this website, but Safe Or Scam will never be gagged.

If you want to make comments on articles then bondreview is the place to make them. The Safe Or Scam site allows comments, but it’s not really what we do. We like to focus on investigations, scam alerts and recovery actions.

Here’s a link to a Safe Or Scam article about the HSG administration published on 23rd March 2022.

It’s worth a read because the administration is a lesson in misdirection and non-disclosure. Another article was published on 24th March 2022 as more things came to light.

Over the next few days we will re-publish those original HSG articles on this site and they will be open for comment.

Recent Articles by Safe Or Scam

The following is a list of articles which have been published on the blog page of the Safe Or Scam website in the public interest.

Safe Or Scam Category: Follow-On-Frauds (aka Recovery Room Scams)

These are where victims of scams are approached by a party which promises they can recover some or all of the money lost in a scam. The approach always results in the victim being asked to pay more money.

BURLINGTON CAPITAL HOLDINGS

STERLING HOLDINGS

GLOBAL INSOLVENCY SOLUTIONS

KINGSGATE INSOLVENCY

PAUL DONOFRIO

ALASTAIR DOBBIE / NICO BRUYNIKS / ROBERTO PANCALDI / GIAN LUCA FETTA

LODORE

REDSTART INVESTMENTS

TEXPARK LONDON / TEXPARK INVESTMENTS

Safe Or Scam Category: Articles on Companies

FESTIVAL HOTELS GROUP – a spin-off from the Shepherd Cox Hotels scam.

MERGER MASTERS INTERNATIONAL – a share scam.

HIGH STREET GROUP – a bond scam. Now in administration. The previous operator of bondreview was restricted from publishing any articles on High Street Group, but Safe Or Scam has published several articles.

RENOVARE FUELS – run by two men who established the Solari scam and who also run Teysha Technologies and Nextgen Nano.

PROJECT RF-1 – run by the same two men who established the Solari scam and who also run Teysha Technologies and Nextgen Nano..

STRATXMARKETS / ROSS ST CLAIR – a binary option scam (see ‘SCAM TRACKERS VIDEO below. A victim of the STRATXMARKETS scam is producing videos describing his experience).

HARLEY STREET PROPERTY CLUB – run by a serial scammer and his wife.

Safe Or Scam Category: General Information

SERIOUS FRAUD OFFICE – opinion that the SFO is taking more of an interest in high profile unregulated investment scams.

MONEY MULES – an initiative to expose and target the people who establish or participate in money mule activities.

SCAM TRACKERS VIDEOS – a new initiative to give victims of scams an opportunity to publish videos on their experiences. See this Youtube Link. Any victim of a scam is invited to produce their own video story.

ESSEX AND LONDON PROPERTIES – an update on the criminal case being heard against six men who established or participated in the scam.

JAMES MOORE SENTENCED TO 11 YEARS – an update on serial scammer James Moore who received an 11 year sentence in the USA.

WHATSAPP SCAM – a record of an unsolicited whatsapp communication where a scammer pretends to be a family member who needs money to be sent to cover a fake debt.

FRE Plc – An Investor’s Story

This article has been written by a bondholder in FRE Plc . The opinions expressed in this article are those of the investor. She has taken it upon herself to form a Facebook Group for FRE bondholders which can be accessed via this LINK. https://www.facebook.com/groups/freplcbondholdersforum

In October 1992 I lost my 9 year old, diabetic son to a sudden, devastating hypoglycaemic attack, in the bathtub of our home. My 11 year old daughter found him floating face down in the bathtub,  I knew half of me had died and my girl had lost the only other family she has in this country, apart from me. 

In September 2013, she and her partner had their first baby girl, beautiful and perfect in every way, and 2 years later another daughter just as precious. I knew that I would spend the rest of my life trying to ensure that their lives would be happy, safe and free of the fear and worries I had experienced as a single mother. Tragically it would not prove that simple. Just 2 years later their eldest  was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. Suddenly my daughter was stepping into my shoes: a poor single mother, living in a tower block full of junkies and alcoholics, working full-time for a low income. She split up with her partner and I was the only other family she had.

So, when my mother died and I inherited some money, I redeemed the small mortgage on the home I share with my partner, and committed the remainder to an investment in FRE Plc to secure my daughter and the children’s future, while helping to safeguard their planet’s climate.  I am passionate about supporting ethical issues and investing in what I believed was an ethical and safe investment. I searched the Internet, using Ecosia – the search engine that plants trees – and at last found a company that fitted the bill: ethical, environmentally beneficial, offering a good return to borrow money to develop onshore wind power in the UK and reduce reliance on Fossil Fuels!  I researched the company’s background and looked at their filings on Companies House. I was no expert but I tried to make sure what I was buying was as safe as I could make it. Yes, there is always an element of risk, but wind power – they explained – was subsidised by the Feed in Tariff, and so guaranteed by the UK Government. Besides – they added – even if anything should go wrong and the Company should go into administration, Bondholders have “first charge” and so would get their investment back from the sale of the wind turbine sites before any other creditors.

The charming saleswoman assured me that, as FRE was busy re-powering some of its sites, installing more powerful turbines where permits allowed it, these would increase in value, over the following years, generating more revenue than ever and securing the long term future of Bondholders’ investment. It was the answer to my prayers! I was told that, as someone they considered to be “a high net worth individual” – by dint of the sum I had inherited – I would be accepted on Phase 4 investment. As the money came into my possession, between 2018 and 2019, I retired, because my health had taken a dip, and I elected to dedicate my time and energy to childcare, to free my daughter from expensive after-school fees.

It was then that I paid FRE Plc. well in excess of £100,000, feeling that at last I could sleep easy at night, knowing that soon I could help her buy a home, so she would no longer have to pay rent, or feel afraid in her own home.  For a while the interest came in, punctually, until May this year (2021), when my hopes were shattered by an email that was like a bolt out of the blue. After a lengthy explanation it announced that:

It is with great disappointment we must inform you that, in light of these developments in our sale process, it is now clear that there will be, in all likelihood, a deficiency in our asset value when compared to our Bondholder obligations regardless of the outcome of this exercise. It is this impact we write to you today to seek your own approval on the way forward.

In the interim we have halted payment of interest on your Bonds in order to ensure we are not preferring any creditors under legal advice. This interest will continue to accrue and form part of any future claim you have in the portfolio.

The money my 92 year old mother had so carefully invested into her property, that she had held on to, even when she could have done with extra help and care, was now evaporating, leaving behind a fraction of the proceeds from her sacrifices and my well-intentioned investments. Meanwhile, those who had given their assurances disappeared. Both the salesperson and her manager had gone leaving behind the founder, a man with 31 Directorships under his belt – who had proved inept at best and possibly fraudulent at worst.

I have hardly slept a single night, since then and curse myself for being so naive…  “If it looks too good to be true, it probably is!”  the words echo in my mind, and I feel devastated, hating myself for my naïveté.

Meanwhile men like these will be free to go on to destroy other lives like my girls’ and mine. They will not suffer because their wealth is beyond our reach and they will not even lose any sleep!

SAFE OR SCAM COMMENT – FRE PLC is currently attempting to force through a vote on restructuring. This is similar to other bond investments which have also recently claimed that investors have supported restructuring proposals after opaque, undemocratic and highly questionable voting processes. Our legal advisers have stated that they believe all bondholder restructuring outcomes are unlikely to be bind many classes of bondholders.

Why now ? Because the UK Government’s moratorium on the filing of winding up petitions ends on 30th September 2021. There is a rush to force through changes to Bond Instruments before bondholders can take recovery action against the companies. The FRE PLC vote is due to take place on 28th September 2021.

Bondreview in the Future

Brev has now stepped away from Bondreview and we wish him/her all the best for the future.

The site will now be managed by two independent volunteer moderators who support the Safe Or Scam effort to combat scams, but it will remain largely as it is now i.e a free information site allowing the public to comment on articles related to a range of investments.

All historical articles published by Brev will remain in place. The ‘Comments’ facility, which was disabled when Brev retired, will be reinstated to allow visitors to give their point of view. Please give us a week or so to transfer all the gubbings of the site (technical term) to our hosting provider. We will update users when that has completed and the site is fully operational once more.

The site name will change to reflect the fact that investment scams have moved on. Bonds are less prevalent nowadays since their promotion and sale is now captured under FCA regulations. It is not so easy for dodgy investments to use corporate bonds as an investment option. The new Bondreview will cover a wider range of scams and will seek to educate readers on the different scams in the market to raise awareness.

We intend to introduce a new facility where we will publish articles written by members of the public. There are investors who have undertaken their own research into the scams in which they invested and we will be happy to publish their findings. Please note that the articles would need to be backed by supporting evidence. We can’t just allow people to say “That guy Toby Forrest is scamming people”. If anyone would like to start the ball rolling with an article please contact us.

If any reader comes across an interesting article related to investment scams which they feel deserves wider publicity please send us a link and we’ll aim to publish it.

Now that “investigating investments” has become a FCA-regulated activity under recent legislation we would expect more investigation companies to install pop-up boxes requiring visitors to confirm their status by clicking a button to access content. The new Bondreview site will take those regulations into account in order to ensure compliance.

Bondreview.co.uk to be maintained by Safe or Scam

When I said farewell two months ago, my initial plan was to maintain the blog in a frozen state for a year, after which it would disappear off the air.

I have since had an offer from Safe or Scam to take over the domain and website, and have accepted. The transfer will take effect in the next few hours, after which my involvement with Bond Review will end.

Bond Review has always been until now a fully independent and disinterested source of coverage on the unregulated investment world, and I thought long and hard before accepting an offer from a commercial organisation, but the alternative was to allow the website to disappear after a year, after which the domain would have been available for anyone to jump on. I am grateful to Safe or Scam for ensuring that my coverage can remain as a useful resource to investors.

I may return to blogging one day but it won’t be under the “Brev” persona, so any posts on this website or under the name “Brev” after 23 July aren’t from me.

Stay sane.

-Brev (2017-2021)

Comments now closed

Slightly later than initially announced in my last post “Goodbye”, all articles have now been closed to comments.

I can continue to be contacted via the Contact link at the top of each page or via Twitter.

Thanks to all readers for their contributions.

Goodbye

Regular readers will probably have noticed that the output of Bond Review has continued to drop recently.

In the first year of Bond Review I reviewed over 60 investment schemes that were being promoted to the public; in the past 12 months I’ve reviewed a third of that number.

Although there are still far too many high risk investment schemes being promoted with impunity to the general public by search engines and social media, there are signs that the tide has lessened somewhat. When Bond Review was founded, there was a constant stream of people signing up for consumer finance forums asking whether London Capital and Finance was a safe investment. That is no longer the case, at least not to nearly the same extent.

In 2017 minibonds were mostly ignored by the press other than very occasional articles warning investors of the risks (and sometimes promoting them). They were also, as covered here extensively, completely ignored by the FCA. That is certainly no longer the case, with the collapse of London Capital and Finance (along with lesser schemes) hitting the mainstream press and the subject of Parliamentary enquiries.

But the main reason I am bringing the blog to a close is that I simply don’t have the time any more. Maintaining the trickle of bi-weekly articles (with regular lapses) has often meant staying up past midnight (and drinking too much wine) simply because it was the only hour in the day available. I have a full-time job, a family, a sports club to get back up off the ground after being shut down during the pandemic, and the blog. Something has to give.

I remain proud of what Bond Review has achieved. I know for a fact that as a result of my reviews, millions of pounds whose owners could not afford to lose them have been saved from high-risk investment schemes which subsequently collapsed. I know this because the people that ran them told me so in the course of their legal threats.

All I have done for three and a half years is to post the facts, and nothing but the facts, about the risks of unregulated investments, so that investors can make their own minds up. At times this meant my coverage was open to charges of being “anodyne” or “mealy-mouthed”, but it was sticking to what was verifiable and in the public domain that allowed me to stand behind my coverage for this long.

I considered going public with my identity but have nothing to gain from doing so. At least three different people have been identified as Brev by various idiots posting spam online. None of them are me.

I originally called this article “Indefinite hiatus” but then I remembered how annoying it was when I was reading webcomics twenty years ago and authors would forever be going on “hiatuses” (hiati?) that left you forever wondering whether they’d come back. So no hiatus, just an unambiguous goodbye, and an end to three and a half years that has often been stressful, draining, fascinating, heartbreaking and (emotionally) rewarding in equal measure.

Thanks to all the readers who have read this far. In the early weeks of writing Bond Review I got excited whenever my pageview count went up by 1 (and even more excited when it wasn’t from me). For many weeks posting articles felt like shouting at the bins. The stats, comments and messages of support all helped keep me going for as long as I have.

A special thanks to everyone who donated. If anyone feels they have been shortchanged by the sudden cancellation, get in touch via the Contact link above and I will happily refund any previous donations to their source. The handful of recurring donations to Bond Review have been cancelled at my end.

A final credit goes to Oz, the writer behind the website BehindMLM.com, which was a huge inspiration for Bond Review. If there are any readers of both they will have noticed a few similarities of style which are partly homage and partly lack of imagination on my part. It showed that it was possible to shine a light on an under-covered part of the financial world and keep it going in the teeth of concerted and relentless opposition. How Oz has kept it going for a decade (with a much higher output than I ever had) is beyond me.

Comments on all articles will be closed in a week on June 1st. I will continue to pay the hosting bill to keep Bond Review up for another year. It will then close for good on 25 May 2022.

I can continue to be contacted via the contact link above.

Have you thrown in the towel due to legal action?

When I started Bond Review I knew I needed to be prepared to stand up for myself in court, or there was no point in writing articles on this subject in the first place. A total of 13 different investment schemes have made legal threats to me. None of them have gone to court. Until today I had (unless memory fails me) withdrawn one solitary article from publication: a report on Blackmore Bonds‘ brief sponsorship of the Kent Police rugby team.

So any suggestion that I have been intimidated into shutting down the blog is a perfectly reasonable guess but incorrect.

Nor have I been paid off. I have never (despite offers) accepted money to remove any article from Bond Review, and never will.

A number of articles have been pulled from view today because keeping them up for another year is not worth the time and money it would require. This should not be misinterpreted as an admission that anything in them was false. I cannot comment further. There are special circumstances and anyone who thinks I might be persuaded to pull other articles for no reason (before the website closes) should save their breath.