Four companies operating from Cheltenham and selling plots of agricultural land have been closed down by the High Court following an investigation by the Companies Investigation Branch of the Insolvency Service.
The companies began trading in early 2004 by purchasing land in greenbelt areas across England, which were then sub-divided into plots of typically 400 - 500 square metres. In excess of 700 plots were sold in this way to the public. Potential investors in South East Asia were also targeted through Land International (Far East) Limited. The common directors for the four companies were Michael John Morris and Stephen Nicholas Meissner.
The investigation found that during the sales process, prospective investors were told by the companies sales agents that the selling company in question would be seeking to obtain planning permission on their behalf, with the accompanying sales literature disclosing that separate management companies would be set up to deal with planning permission on behalf of plot owners at each site. In reality there was no prospect of planning permission being obtained.
All four companies failed to maintain adequate accounting records. Land International Limited had failed to file any accounts since incorporation in 2003, missing statutory deadlines for filing accounts for its first three accounting periods. This failure to maintain adequate accounting records assisted in attempts to mask the extent of the companies' trading activities including to properly account for their corporation tax liabilities. Applying the average plot selling price to the plots sold suggested that the total revenue would have been in excess of £10million.
NOTES TO EDITORS 1. The registered office of Land International Limited, Land International (UK) Limited and Land International (Marketing) Limited was at 6 St Georges Street, Cheltenham GL50 4AF, whilst Land International (Far East) Limited was at 1 St Georges Street, Cheltenham GL50 4AF.
2. The petitions to wind up the companies in the public interest were presented on 23 January 2008 under the provisions of Section 124A of the Insolvency Act 1986 following an investigation conducted under Section 447 and 453A of the Companies Act 1985 by Companies Investigation Branch of the Insolvency Service. The Official Receiver was appointed provisional liquidator of all four companies on that date. The petitions were heard on 16 July 2008, at which time the companies were wound up.
3. The Insolvency Service carries out confidential enquiries on behalf of the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform through Companies Investigation Branch.
4. The Insolvency Service administers the insolvency regime, investigating all compulsory liquidations and individual insolvencies (bankruptcies) through the Official Receiver to establish why they become insolvent. The Service also authorizes and regulates the insolvency profession; deals with disqualification of directors in corporate failures; assesses and pays statutory entitlement to redundancy payments when an employer cannot or will not pay employees; provides banking and investment services for bankruptcy and liquidation estate funds; and advises ministers and other government departments on insolvency law and practice.
5. All public enquiries concerning the affairs of the company should be made: The Official Receiver, Public Interest Unit, 21 Bloomsbury Street, London, WC1B 3SS. Public Enquiries: 0207 637 1110
6. Further information about the work of The Insolvency Service is available from http://www.insolvency.gov.uk
Client ref Ins/Coms/20
COI ref 164278P