The Financial Conduct Authority has won a case over a collective investment scheme in rice farm harvests in Sierra Leone.
The High Court found Capital Alternatives Limited, Renwick Haddow, Marcia Hargous, Robert McKendrick and others now have to pay £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".
Between 2009 and 2013 the schemes offered investments in rice farm harvests in Sierra Leone and investments in carbon credits intended to be generated from land in Sierra Leone, Brazil and Australia.
The respective schemes were operated by African Land Limited and Reforestration Projects Limited.
Mark Steward, executive director at the FCA's 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."
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.
There were 16 defendants in the case, including Richard Henstock and the estate of David Waygood, with whom the FCA settled their case.
The decision over restitution comes after protracted proceedings, an appeal and an eventual trial which took place over 22 days and concluded in October 2017.
If the decision is not appealed by the defendants, the FCA will begin getting back the money and returning it to affected consumers.
In the meantime, the regulator has said it is seeking injunctions restraining the assets of some of the defendants.