£13.3m investment scam director disqualified: HMRC

An ‘alternative investment’ scammer that caused losses of at least £13.3m to members of the UK public via a ‘money circulation scheme’ and by selling interests in land in Dominica that the company never owned, has been disqualified from being a company director for 15 years, following a hearing at the UK High Court.

37-year-old Ian James Hamilton, the director of Industry RE Ltd (IRE) operated a number of ‘alternative investment’ scams between 2009 and 2013 causing losses of at least £13.3m to members of the public, HMRC said announcing his disqualification in a statement today.

This disqualification follows investigation by the Official Receiver at Public Interest Unit, a specialist team of the Insolvency Service. The Official Receiver’s involvement commenced with the winding up of the company by HM Revenue & Customs.

The investigation found that Hamilton, operating solely via his IRE company, systematically took money from consumers on the basis of misleading statements, including promises of returns on a Dominica-based Eco resort, solar bonds and a money circulation scheme connected to Dubai.

IRE traded in a number of business areas, all of which involved a subcontracted telesales operation to “cold call” members of the public, selling “alternative investments” in a variety of projects. There were two principal schemes sold to members of the public by the company, both of which were dishonest, HMRC said in its statement.

Dubai connection

In the first scheme IRE received money from consumers by guaranteeing a return on their investments, which was actually a money circulation scheme. Most investors believed they were purchasing carbon credits, which IRE said that it would repurchase within 12 months for 30% more than investors had paid, and sell the credits onwards to a connected company in Dubai.

IRE made payments totalling more than £8.6m to customers that included what were claimed to be investment returns. However, the investigation found that IRE had not made any of the claimed investments and did not receive any profits that it could use to pay investment returns to investors.

Instead, IRE had made payments using deposits from other, newer, investors, a key characteristic of a money circulation scheme. Investors in the scheme have lost in excess of £5.7m, HMRC said.

Solar bonds

Some investors in 2009 had paid IRE for “solar bonds” that were to pay a return of 10% per annum for 5 years, and then investors would receive their capital back. IRE did not invest in any such solar scheme and did not receive any profits from which it could make payments to its investors.

Instead, payments claimed to be “interest” were made from the deposits of newer investors. This was a smaller scheme than the purported carbon credit scheme.

‘Dominica Eco resort’

The other principal scheme operated by IRE was the sale of interests in an “Eco resort” that it claimed would be built in Dominica. Consumers were persuaded to pay £25,000 for an interest in the supposed resort, and were promised a return of 80% on their investment within 2 years.

However IRE never told investors that it had not acquired the land on which the resort was to be built. On the current information IRE received sums totaling £7.6m from investors to buy interests in the “Eco resort”, none of whom have received any return.

A number of ‘customer updates’ have been circulated by the company between December 2012 and 3 August 2013. In these documents Mr Hamilton stated that the company had relocated to Dubai, and there then followed a serious of purported explanations of why the company was delayed in being able to make payments due to customers.

‘£1.1m transferred in 1 day’

In December 2012 sums totaling more than £1.1m were transferred from the company’s bank account in a single day.

In his very limited contact with the Official Receiver Hamilton has suggested that IRE’s monies were being held by a connected company in Dubai, but he has failed to provide any information or company records to support his version of events, or to cooperate in any way with the Official Receiver or the liquidator.

Tony Hanon, Official Receiver at Public Interest Unit, said: “The company persuaded members of the public to part with substantial sums by falsely promising investors extremely high rates of return. In reality, the scheme operated only for the benefit of those running the company, principally the director, Ian Hamilton.

Last known address

Ian James Hamilton’s last known address was in Newbury, Berkshire in 2013, but it appears that he subsequently lived in Dubai and possibly in Spain. His date of birth is 19 July 1978.

Industry RE Ltd was incorporated on 28 July 2009 (registered number 06974538). IRE’s registered office was at Tower 42, 25 Old Broad Street, London EC2N 1HN. Ian James Hamilton was the only director, shareholder and company secretary throughout the company’s life.

As a result of the disqualification order without specific permission of a court, a person with a disqualification cannot: act as a director of a company, take part, directly or indirectly, in the promotion, formation or management of a company or limited liability partnership, be a receiver of a company’s property.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Gary Robinson
Deputy Editor, International Investment and Head of Video at Open Door Media Publishing. A fully qualified journalist and filmmaker with more than 20 years' financial services experience, both as journalist and originally as an IFA.

Read more from Gary Robinson

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