2 firms shut down after LCF-style £3m bond scam

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Two financial companies offering LCF-style investment ‘bonds’ have been shut down after a £3m fraud against investors.

Some clients lost part of their life savings or pensions cash when the rogue firms, run by a brother and sister, were ordered to be wound up by the High Court.

The Insolvency Service took legal action to wind up the firms – Satchi Holdings and Hartreel – which claimed to offer a 9% return on investment bonds, ‘blatantly misleading’ investors.

The offer was similar to the strategy used by failed rogue mini-bond firm London Capital & Finance (LCF) which claimed to offer ‘safe’ bond investments.

Satchi Holdings PLC (Company No. 11814833) ­and Hartreel Ltd (Company No. 10982925) were wound-up after, “misleading investors and failing to cooperate with an investigation into the firms’ affairs,” the Insolvency Service said this week.

The firms were run by brother and sister Michael Haston and Jennifer McQueen.

Their firm, Satchi Holdings PLC, was used to raise at least £3m from members of the public. Investors’ money was loaned to other companies owned by Mr Haston and only £200,000 of customer investments was used for legitimate loans.

Satchi Holdings PLC claimed to offer ‘safe’ investments in asset-backed loan notes paying up to 9% interest. However investors received only minimal interest payments, no return of their investments and most risked or lost their life savings.

 

The firms claimed to provide FSCS protection on the bonds but this was a bogus claim and, in effect, there was no protection for clients. The firms and individuals involved do not appear to be FCA regulated.

The two companies were wound up in the public interest after misleading people into investing a total of at least £3m in an unprotected bond scheme, the Insolvency Service said.

Satchi Holdings offer was similar to the mini-bonds offered by London Capital & Finance which collapsed owing £237m to 12,000 investors.

Satchi Holdings and Hartreel were wound up at the High Court on 30 January, following an investigation by the Insolvency Service which uncovered the fraud. The Official Receiver was appointed as liquidator of the companies.

Satchi Holdings PLC, was registered in Berkeley Square, Mayfair, London. Hartreel Ltd was registered in Bridgend, Wales, and was run by Michael Haston.

From June 2019 Satchi Holdings raised money by issuing asset-based, fixed rate loan notes that offered up to 9% interest and were due to pay out in June 2024. The loan notes were not approved under S21 of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 so should only have been offered to high net-worth individuals or sophisticated investors.

Investors were falsely told that their investments were secure due to Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) protection. They were also told that Satchi Holdings was backed with assets of £34m.

Investigators found that many of the business’ investors were neither high net-worth nor sophisticated investors. They also discovered that investments were not backed by FSCS protection and there was no evidence that any security had been given for the money that was loaned.

In November 2021, Hartreel Ltd bought Satchi Holdings PLC’s assets and in December 2021 it informed investors that the company would be repaying all investors early. However the last interest payments investors received were between April 2020 and January 2022.

An investigation by the Insolvency Service revealed that Satchi Holdings had lent money to four companies associated with Mr Haston. Only £200,000 was loaned legitimately and that money is unrecoverable as Satchi Holdings failed to fully honour the contracts.

The pair also failed to appoint a company secretary for Satchi Holdings and failed to deliver business records – both breaches of company law.

Due to their failure to cooperate, investigators were unable to identify the total amount that members of the public had invested, and could find no evidence of the £34 million assets that investors were told Satchi Holdings owned.

Mr Haston is subject to a 10-year ban from running a business, from August 2023, following previous misconduct while running another business, Leonreed Ltd.

Mark George, chief investigator at the Insolvency Service, said: “Satchi Holdings PLC took money from members of the public who invested in good faith, believing that their money was properly protected. Both companies showed utter disregard for their financial accountability and blatantly misled investors, many of whom handed over life savings or pensions.”

In 2021 the High Court wound up 7 mini-bond firms based in Mayfair, London. These firms are not thought to be connected to the firms above or LCF.




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