Investments  

Scammers forced to compensate victims of £1.4m scheme

Scammers forced to compensate victims of £1.4m scheme

A trio of scammers who cheated retired and vulnerable consumers out of more than £1.4m of savings have been forced to pay compensation to their victims.

In a case bought by the Financial Conduct Authority, Southwark Crown Court made confiscation orders against Samrat Bhandari, Muhammad Mirza and Paul Moore following their earlier conviction and prison sentences for their involvement in running an unauthorised investment scheme between 2009 and 2014.

During that time the group systematically misled investors, many of whom were retired and vulnerable, by encouraging them to invest in a company whose shares were effectively worthless, the court found.

The court made a confiscation order against Bhandari for £376,604, all of which is to be paid as compensation to the confirmed victims, while Mirza’s order is for £1.2m. More than £750,000 of this will be used as compensation.

In a separate case, Paul Moore had a confiscation order made against him for £29,736 at Maidstone Crown Court.

Paul Moore’s brother, Michael Moore, is a further convicted defendant in the case but is yet to have an order made against him and proceedings at Southwark Crown Court are ongoing.

The scheme was based around a company set up by Mirza called Symbiosis Healthcare which purported to offer “healthcare solutions”.

Bhandari was a director of William Albert Securities Ltd, a company which acted as corporate advisers to Symbiosis and organised the selling of its shares, while the Moore brothers were brokers directly involved in selling shares in Symbiosis to investors.

The shares were worthless but investors were promised large profits and claims were made about the investment opportunity through the operation and expansion of a network of medical clinics in places such as Dubai.

The FCA said investors were misled directly, on the phone, in correspondence and in person, at annual general meetings, as well as through creating and publishing written statements and promotional material by or on behalf of Symbiosis.

In total, 300 investors lost just more than £1.4m through the scheme.

The four were found to be guilty in relation to the scheme in December 2017 and later that year, Mirza was sentenced to 15 months in jail while Paul Moore and Michael Moore were sentenced to nine and 15 months respectively. 

Bhandari, said to be the “the prime mover” in the sale of the shares, was sentenced to three and a half years in jail in January 2018.

The FCA has urged any individual who believes they were a victim of the scheme and would like compensation to contact the regulator urgently on Alfreton.Mailbox@fca.org.uk or 0300 500 8082.

imogen.tew@ft.com