Five men have been imprisoned for participating in a sophisticated investment scam which preyed on expatriate investors. The Serious Fraud Office is also seeking to confiscate the fraudsters' assets, in order to recover as much as possible of the £1.93 million invested.
The fraudulent investments were marketed through Independent Financial Advisers (IFAs). The scam relied on offering above average returns and promising, through highly professional looking literature, that the investments would be backed by commercial property loans. Even the choice of trading name – Prudential Commercial Investments’ (PCI) – smacked of security and hinted falsely at a connection with the respected UK financial institution.
The demise of the scheme came after a tip-off to the Metropolitan Police, which enabled them to close it down after it had functioned for only a year; otherwise, the losses to investors could have been much greater. The tip-off itself came from an IFA in the Far East, who recognised that the promises made by PCI were too good to be true.
Sentences of between two years and four years and eight months for those behind the scam will come as little consolation to those who have seen their savings stolen: only time will tell how much, if any, of their money will be recovered.
Recently, the Financial Services Authority (FSA) announced that it will review schemes that look suspicious, rather than waiting until a complaint is made. However, the FSA only has authority over UK-based investment operations.