What is land banking fraud?
Land banking fraud is a type of property fraud that is becoming increasingly prevalent. This is where investors are led to believe they are investing in land that will significantly increase in value. The factors supporting this belief would be, for example, plots of land in areas with high house prices, a declared government intention for increased housing or if the plot is close to land that has been allocated for development.
Unfortunately, the reality is far different. The plot would actually have little or no development potential and it may be unlikely to get planning permission. The land may not even exist or, if it does, it may not belong to the person actually “selling” it. It is very difficult to try and establish the full picture in cases such as these.
This is another type of investment fraud where people are enticed into parting with money on the promise of great returns. This is often done through high-pressure telephone sales or could be by brochures or websites. Another way of soliciting people would be for the perpetrators to take a stand at an exhibition. The main aim is to entice people to invest in a plot of land that ends up being worthless.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) does not regulate land as a specified investment but many schemes may be in breach of the financial regulatory regime in any event. This would be if they are offering a ‘collective investment' scheme. In order to be operating legally, land banking companies would need to request and obtain authorisation from the FCA. Generally, land banking schemes are not regulated.
Land banking in itself is not illegal. However, any fraudulent activity, such as selling the land for more than its worth by misleading the buyers, is. Many building companies and developers bank land for future projects and, while it may be seen as controversial, it is not illegal.
What do I do if accused of land banking fraud?
These cases are notoriously difficult, and prosecutors seem determined to pursue them aggressively. The City of London Police has a particular interest and are dedicating resources to this area. The frauds are often perpetrated on a national scale and the paper trail can be complex. As nationally recognised solicitors across the UK, we can assist, no matter where you are based. We cover investigations and proceedings throughout the country and have access to experts, such as accountants, computer analysts and senior barristers, for land banking fraud.
Whether you are facing criminal charges for a land banking fraud offence or are under investigation from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), it is recommended that you have legal advice from the start. At Stephensons, our solicitors for land banking fraud are experts in their field, we have been ranked as a top tier fraud firm by the Legal 500, a prestigious national publication that lists the best legal firms by sector.
If you are facing accusations of land banking fraud, we recommend that you seek legal advice straight away. We have found that having a solicitor present at the initial interview stages can make all the difference in the outcome of a case. Typically, formal interviews can be used as evidence, so it is vital that you have legal representation to guide you.
As a full-service nationwide legal firm for land banking, we have the resources, knowledge and expertise to offer a robust and pro-active defence on your behalf. Our experienced team of lawyers for land banking fraud has the expertise and knowledge to look at the required level of detail to defend you. Contact our expert fraud solicitors on 0203 816 1098 or complete our online enquiry form.
What is the sentencing for investment fraud such as land banking fraud?
There are a number of penalties that those found guilty might face, such as:
- Custodial sentence –anywhere from six months to ten years in prison
- Disqualification from being a company director
- A substantial fine – the amount will be determined by the amount of money the fraudsters have taken
- Confiscation order – this means any proceeds from the crime will be confiscated and may be used to compensate victims
- Community orders
Other penalties, such as deprivation orders, a financial reporting order or a serious crime prevention order may also be handed down by the court.
As land banking fraud cases are complex, and the type and level of sentence expected for those found guilty will depend on several factors, such as:
- Culpability – there are three levels of culpability A, B and C. A is the highest level of culpability and may carry the harshest punishments
- The level of actual or potential harm caused to the victim
- The type of investment crime
- The impact of the crime on the victim(s) and how it has affected their lives
- Submitting a guilty plea
- Previous convictions
- Mental health issues.
As one of the leading land banking fraud law firms, we can help you if you are facing investment fraud allegations, contact our expert land banking lawyers today on 0203 816 1098.