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Monday, 21 November 2011

Three connected companies that operated a charity collection scam were last week closed down in the public interest by the High Court in London, following an investigation by Company Investigations of the Insolvency Service.

The companies are Air Ambulance Support Community Interest Company (“Air Ambulance Support CIC”), St Anthony (Trading Co) Ltd (formerly Air Ambulance Service (Trading Co) Ltd) and St Anthony Repatriation Ltd (formerly Air Ambulance Service)). Both St Anthony companies had a common director, Anthony Joseph Durkin. Mr Tomas Mickauskas, a former director of Air Ambulance, worked as a leaflet distributor for the two St Anthony companies.

The investigation found the three companies, primarily targeted residents in the South and Midlands, via ‘Charity bag’ drop offs and collections and made misleading representations that the proceeds raised from the onward sale of unwanted clothing would be donated to local air ambulance charities. The reality was this did not happen.
Commenting on the case, Investigation Supervisor, David Hill, said;
“In winding-up these companies, the court is sending a clear message that schemes which set out to deliberately mislead the public in this manner are not acceptable and will be closed when we become aware of them”.

The investigation also found the companies operated in a similar manner, attempting to pass themselves off as authorised collection agents by making charity bag drops in residential areas, with attached leaflets bearing similarities to the logos of official air ambulance charities, in particular that of Midlands Air Ambulance. At no time throughout their trading histories were they ever authorised by any air ambulance service to act as charity fund raisers.

Due to the failure of all three companies to maintain adequate accounting records, it is not known what became of any proceeds generated through the sale of clothing items collected by the companies. No evidence of donations made to any Air Ambulance Charity was found.

The activities of the companies were also found to be not only misleading but in breach of regulations contained in the House to House Collections Act 1939 concerning door to door leaflet dropping where charitable purposes are included. Essentially the Act requires companies conducting collections for charitable purposes to obtain a licence. None of the companies had done so. Several local authorities had received complaints concerning the activities of the companies including Oxfordshire County Council, Poole Borough Council, Wolverhampton City Council and Leicestershire County Council. Public concern was also expressed in widespread attention given in local publications, including articles in the Worcester News, Gloucestershire News and Burton Mail.

Information provided by the Insolvency Service.

Two companies have become the latest in a string of companies wound-up following an investigation by The Insolvency Service for landbanking activities. As well as selling worthless land, the companies even attempted to sell land they did not own.

Regency Land Sales Ltd and Regency Land Group Limited IBC, based in London, Spain and Belize were both wound up in the High Court following an investigation by the Government's Companies Investigations, part of The Insolvency Service.

The investigation found Regency Land Group Limited, formed in Belize and operated from offices in Spain, used telesales methods to sell small plots of agricultural land in Grantham to members of the public. The company misleadingly suggested the land would 'accrue further value when it was rezoned for planning purposes'. In reality, enquiries made of the local authority by Investigators have confirmed there is no real prospect of such rezoning taking place. Regency Land Sales Ltd, an England & Wales registered company, acted as UK sales agent for its offshore relation.

The investigation followed on from an earlier enquiry into Britannia Land Management Limited, which also sold land in Grantham and which identified similar concerns over the activities of that company, resulting in it being wound up by the High Court in the public interest on 18 October 2010. 
Both Britannia and the Regency companies have been managed by Llewellyn Adam Hannah-Shelton, a UK citizen resident in Spain. 

During the investigation, Mr Hannah-Shelton and others said to be in control of the two companies failed to co-operate with Investigators and did not provide full information regarding their affairs. Nevertheless, the investigators were able to establish that the land sold to the public was never legally transferred into their names and that whilst purchasers were given a "guarantee" of 8% growth on their investment in the first 12 months, this was entirely illusory.

Investigators also found that there was also a lack of transparency about the management and status of Regency Land Group Limited as a Belize registered company with only very limited disclosure of its details. In addition, those in control of the companies admitted to the use of aliases when talking to the clients, and to using virtual offices and internet based mail scanning services.

On 7 September 2011, the Secretary of State for Business Innovation and Skills successfully applied to the High Court to have the Official Receiver appointed as Provisional Liquidator of both companies. The role of the provisional liquidator was to protect assets in the possession or under the control of the company pending the determination of the petition.

Information provided by the Insolvency Service.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

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