News, Culture & Society

Don’t touch Lodore clone, says TONY HETHERINGTON

A forger who helped hide the proceeds of a multi-million pound investment scam has been sentenced to 28 months in jail, despite no prosecutions being brought against those the Financial Conduct Authority has named as being involved in the scam itself. 

Stephen Allen pleaded guilty to forging a deed which concealed the real ownership of a stake in a London property. 

The real owner was Renwick Haddow, one of seven individuals named by the FCA as being behind a series of unauthorised investment schemes operating under the title of African Land or Agri Capital. 

I warned in 2010 that Agri Capital’s plan to invest in fields growing rice, with the promise of 50 per cent capital gains in the first year, was both illegal and backed by bogus guarantees. Three years later, in 2013, the FCA began legal action to freeze the scheme and recover investors’ money. 

One of the ringleaders, Robert McKendrick, tried to divert funds into his wife’s name, and in 2019 he was jailed for contempt of court. Now Stephen Allen has followed him, for hiding Renwick Haddow’s ownership of a London property worth more than £1million. Mark Steward, the FCA head of enforcement, said: ‘This is a serious facilitating offence. The FCA will pursue those who facilitate financial crime as well as principal offenders.’

However, the FCA itself has named the principal individual offenders in the Agri Capital scam as Marcia Hargus, Richard Henstock, Alan Meadowcroft, Mark Ayres, Mark Gibbs, and of course Haddow and McKendrick – yet not one of these has been prosecuted. 

The only prosecutions have been against the two men involved in hiding the ill-gotten gains. 

An FCA spokesman explained that prosecuting people who run unauthorised investments scams ‘can become a very technical case’. He added that the watchdog ‘prioritised action that might help victims get some money back’. 

The defendants were ordered to hand back £18.7million for the benefit of their victims. So far, the FCA has received just £580,000, leaving more than £18million unaccounted for and not a single criminal conviction. Who says crime doesn’t pay! And when will MPs wake up to the fact that the FCA just isn’t up to the job?