Four fraudsters who conned their largely elderly and vulnerable victims out of £1.4m in a worthless investment scheme have been jailed and confiscation orders passed to seize their assets, the UK regulator has announced.
Samrat Bhandari, whom the judge described as “the prime mover” in the sale of shares had his sentencing adjourned.
He offered to arrange funds to reimburse investors in this period. However, this offer was subsequently withdrawn and Bhandari will be sentenced in late January, and will remain in custody until he is sentenced.
Dr Muhammad Aleem Mirza was sentenced to 15 months’ imprisonment.
He was disqualified as a director for eight years. The judge said that his dealings had “brought about his professional ruin” and that he had put his own ambitions and pride before his responsibilities as the director of a company.
Both Mirza and Bhandari were convicted on 30 November, following a trial at Southwark Crown Court that lasted 49 days.
Michael Moore was sentenced to 15 months’ imprisonment and his brother Paul Moore to 9 months’ imprisonment; both had pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing.
The judge said that Michael Moore knew exactly what he was doing from the outset of his involvement in the scheme.
Michael and Paul Moore are already serving seven years’ imprisonment resulting from their involvement in a separate investment scheme.
They will serve their sentences consecutively, meaning they will serve total sentences of 8 years 3 months and 7 years 9 months respectively. They had both previously been disqualified from holding the position of director for ten years.
There is some prospect of investors recovering their money and at yesterday’s hearing the FCA began confiscation proceedings against each defendant, “with a view to recovering from each the benefit they gained from their criminal conduct”, the FCA said in a statement.
“In due course, the FCA will invite the Court to order that sums confiscated from the defendants are used to compensate the victims of their crimes,” the statement added.
‘Wholly misleading’ investment picture
The FCA said that between 2009 and 2014, each of the four defendants played an instrumental role in the systematic and prolonged misleading of investors, many of whom were vulnerable, retired individuals, through the creation of a wholly misleading impression as to the value and prospects of Symbiosis Healthcare Plc.
Mirza set up Symbiosis as a company purporting to offer “healthcare solutions” and Bhandari, as director of William Albert Securities Ltd, acted as corporate adviser to Symbiosis and organised the selling of Symbiosis shares.
Both were responsible for publishing misleading statements and exaggerated promotional material which was designed to fool investors.
Additionally, said the FCA, investors were cold-called by brokers, including the Moore brothers, and mis-sold shares in Symbiosis.
Despite promises to investors of large profits, and extravagant claims about the operation and expansion of a network of medical clinics in Dubai and elsewhere, in reality the shares in the company were effectively worthless.
In total, over 300 investors lost just over £1.4 million through the scheme.