In a judgment handed down today, the High Court found that Capital Alternatives Limited, Renwick Haddow, Marcia Hargous, Robert McKendrick and others should pay a total of £16.9m in restitution for their roles in four unauthorised collective investment schemes which were unlawfully promoted to the public by false, misleading and deceptive statements.
In summary, the schemes involved:
- African Land (also known as Agri Capital) which offered investments in rice farm harvests in Sierra Leone, run by African Land Limited; and
- Reforestation Projects (also known as Capital Carbon Credits) which offered investments in carbon credits intended to be generated from land in Sierra Leone, Brazil and Australia, run by Reforestation Projects Limited.
The decision comes following protracted proceedings, an appeal and an eventual trial which took place over 22 days and concluded in October 2017.
Mark Steward, Executive Director at FCA Enforcement and Market Oversight Division, said:
'This judgment should send a clear message to all of those who use corporate facades to sell dubious investments. We will do what it takes to hold them to account for their misconduct.
'We are acutely aware from experience that the risk to investors who deal with unauthorised firms is that most, if not all, investors are likely only to get a fraction of their money back.
'Consumers should recognise that there are huge risks involved when investing with unauthorised businesses.'
Between 2009 and 2013, consumers were persuaded to invest in rice farm harvests in Sierra Leone and in carbon credits intended to be generated from land in Sierra Leone, Brazil and Australia. The FCA launched legal action in July 2013 in respect of the operation and promotion of the four schemes and also in respect of the false and misleading statements made to consumers by individuals involved with the schemes.
Collective investment schemes can be a risky investment so only authorised firms and individuals can operate them. This is to protect consumers’ interests if a scheme goes wrong. None of the defendants in these proceedings were authorised to undertake regulated activities.
If the decision is not subject to further appeal by the Defendants, the FCA can proceed to obtain monies from the Defendants to return to affected consumers. In the meantime, the FCA is seeking new injunctions restraining the assets of some of the defendants.
How to protect yourself
The FCA strongly advise you to only deal with financial firms that are authorised by us, and check the Financial Services Register to ensure they are. It has information on firms and individuals that are, or have been, regulated by us.
If a firm does not appear on the Register but claims it does, contact our Consumer Helpline on 0800 111 6768.
There are more steps you should take to protect yourself from unauthorised firms.
You should also be aware that if you give money to an unauthorised firm, you will not be covered by the Financial Ombudsman Service or Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) if things go wrong.
Report an unauthorised firm
If you think you have been approached by an unauthorised firm or contacted about a scam, you should contact our Consumer Helpline on 0800 111 6768. If you were offered, bought or sold shares, you can use our share fraud reporting form.
You can see more ways to report an unauthorised firm and find out what to do if you have been scammed.
Notes to editors
- Copies of the judgment can be obtained from the FCA press office:
- The full list of the defendants is as follows:
Capital Alternatives Limited;
Capital Secretarial Limited;
Capital Organisation Limited;
Capital Administration Services Limited;
MH Trustees Limited;
Richard Henstock (case settled);
African Land Limited;
Regency Capital Limited;
Reforestation Projects Limited;
Mark Gibbs; and
Estate of David Waygood (case settled)
View the previous statement: FCA wins case against Capital Alternatives.
View our information for investors.
- On 1 April 2013, the FCA became responsible for the conduct supervision of all regulated financial firms and the prudential supervision of those not supervised by the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA).
- The FCA has an overarching strategic objective of ensuring the relevant markets function well. To support this it has three operational objectives: to secure an appropriate degree of protection for consumers; to protect and enhance the integrity of the UK financial system; and to promote effective competition in the interests of consumers.
- Find out more information about the FCA.