Regulation  

FCA battle ends with £1.4m fraudster jailed

FCA battle ends with £1.4m fraudster jailed

A man who was involved in operating an investment scheme which led to people losing more than £1.4m was jailed for three and a half years today, in a case brought by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

Samrat Bhandari, 44, of Bedfordshire, was jailed at Southwark Crown Court today and was also disqualified from holding the position of director for 12 years.

His sentence follows that of Dr Aleem Mirza, Michael Moore and Paul Moore who were also jailed at an earlier hearing for their involvement in the scheme which attracted more than 300 investors.

Between 2009 and 2014, mainly elderly and vulnerable investors were targeted and mis-sold shares in Symbiosis Healthcare plc through a combination of cold-calling, pressure sales and the publication of exaggerated promotional material.

In sentencing, Judge Loraine-Smith said Bhandari had been "entirely self-centred and devious", demonstrating "not a shred of regret" for what he had done nor any sympathy to the investors. He described Bhandari using the enterprise as his "cash cow". The judge said "regulation it seems, means nothing to you".

Bhandari, who was convicted following a trial at Southwark Crown Court lasting 49 days, had offered to repay the investors in the scheme but later withdrew his offer in a move described by the judge as "another example of your manipulative nature".

Symbiosis was set up by Dr Aleem Mirza and purported to be a successful company offering "healthcare solutions" in Dubai and elsewhere in the world.

In reality, the shares in the company were effectively worthless and investors lost a total of just over £1.4m in the scheme. Samrat Bhandari, as director of William Albert Securities Ltd, acted as corporate adviser to Symbiosis and organised the selling of Symbiosis shares, while brothers Michael and Paul Moore were part of a team of brokers.

Mark Steward, director of enforcement and market oversight at the Financial Conduct Authority, which brought the case along with other anti-fraud agencies, said: "Mr Bhandari was the controlling mind in this scheme and he deliberately abused his position as a corporate advisor to exploit hundreds of vulnerable investors for his personal gain.

"This prosecution by the FCA reflects our commitment to protect investors by bringing the operators of unauthorised investment schemes such as this to justice and the sentence shows how seriously the courts view this kind of offending."

Bhandari was jailed for three and a half years for one count of creating a false impression, contrary to the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000, for 15 months for one count of carrying on a regulated activity without authorisation and for three and a half years for one count of creating a false or misleading impression contrary to the Financial Services Act 2012.

These sentences will run concurrently and another count of contravening the restrictions on financial promotions was ordered to lie on the file.

Mirza had previously been sentenced to 15 months in jail while Paul Moore had been jailed for nine months and Michael Moore had been jailed for 15 months.