A Devon-based property firm director has received a nine-year ban after he took £4.7m from investors for a "grand redevelopment project" for which the money was never used.
Matthew Roberts, who appeared in the High Court on 9 July, having changed his name to August Richard Templar, was handed a directorship disqualification on the basis that two of his 13 property companies had traded with “a lack of commercial probity”.
The Insolvency Service found between 2013 and 2015, 50-year-old Roberts targeted high net-worth individuals and sophisticated investors, promising to develop part of a Gloucestershire-based entertainment complex with their investments.
Based on the site of a former convent at Woodchester, near Stroud, the complex would include a hotel, music venue, members club and spa.
Between November 2013 and May 2014, BBH Property 1 raised £1.3m, which investors were told would be used to buy four of the project's properties, with the promise that their money was secured because BBH Property 1 would own the properties free of any debt.
However, in reality £200,000 was used to purchase only one of the properties, while £880,000 was transferred to an unconnected company.
BBH Property 2 operated in the same way. The company raised £900,000 while Roberts was a director and a total of £3.4m between February 2014 and March 2015, promising investors ‘free of debt’ purchases.
BBH Property 2, however, did not purchase any properties. From the money raised, £140,000 was transferred to the same company BBH Property 1 had paid money into, and £300,000 was paid to a third person connected to Roberts.
Roberts' actions meant the investors did not have the promised security for their money, the Insolvency Service said.
John Matthews, the assistant official receiver on the case, said: “Roberts used the two property companies as vehicles to raise millions of pounds that was claimed to be for the purchase of specified properties as part of a grand re-development project.
“The money raised, however, was not used for that specific purpose and this meant the investors did not have the security that they had been promised.”
Matthews added nine years “is a significant period to be removed from the corporate arena” which should "serve as a warning to other directors operating investment schemes that you could be disqualified for several years".
In August 2017, the High Court wound up the two companies it has since accused of lacking commercial probity, appointing Matthews to liquidate them.
Following further enquiries by the Insolvency Service, it emerged that Roberts was in fact the director of several investment companies.
The High Court closed down 13 in total, which had taken £7.8m from investors. However, the disqualification order specifically relates to Roberts’ actions as director of BBH1 and BBH2, and not to any of the other companies he was director of.
Robert’s disqualification order began on July 30. It prevents him from promoting, forming, or managing a company.
His name change by deed poll will not affect his nine-year ban, the Insolvency Service said.