Aylesbury Vale caught up in £35m fraud

Councillor Sue Polhill
Councillor Sue Polhill
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Conmen involved in a massive land banking fraud included a site in Aylesbury Vale in their scam.

In the £35.8 million investment scam a gang of fraudsters conned more than 400 people over five years by convincing them to purchase plots of land – including a site on the north side of the A41 at Kingswood – which they claimed would make a huge profit once planning permission was granted.

But the land was of little or no value.

Vale district councillor Sue Polhill said people should remain vigilant: “Our advice to anyone who is approached to invest in land in this way is to take time to reflect, seek independent advice and research the company in question.

“If a scheme sounds too good to be true, it usually is.”

Daniel Webster, Stephen Allan and Steven Ronald Percival – all from Bromley – were found guilty at Southwark Crown Court of conspiracy to defraud, contrary to common law, following a seven-week trial. They were ordered to serve a combined total of 26 years and four months.

Trading as Countrywide Land Holdings Limited, Countrywide Land Holdings, and Regional Land the fraudsters operated throughout the UK between 1 January 2005 and 31 August 2010.

The fraud was identified by Tower Hamlets Trading Standards following concerns about the number of complaints they were receiving about the businesses.

Landbanking is an investment scam where agricultural land, often in the green belt, is brought at nominal value and divided into small plots which are sold to investors for a substantial mark-up on the promise of large returns if planning permission is granted.

Typically, the land is either not suitable for development or in an area where planning permission is unlikely to be granted, rendering the plots worth less than the investors paid.