Directors pocket millions from land scam

Directors pocket millions from land scam


The directors of several scam land investment companies are now facing High Court action to force them to hand back over £3 million, which they allegedly took from their companies before they were shut down.

Michael Morris and Stephen Meissner ran Land International and three connected firms from offices in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire up until 2008.

They bought land at four sites for a total of £551,000, divided each field into house size plots and then sold them for more than £6 million.

Land International had told its investors that they would apply for planning permission which would, in turn, send the prices of the plots soaring. Investigators later realised that Morris and Meissner had already been warned that there was minimal chance that the permission would be given as the land was in a Green Belt.

All four or the duo’s firms were closed down in 2008, after the Companies Investigation Branch of the Insolvency Service found that numerous investors had been cheated.

The Insolvency Service reported: “The two UK Directors, Stephen Nicholas Meissner and Michael John Morris have not filed accounts and refused to complete and pay for the outstanding audits of their Singapore company (Land International (Far East) Pte Ltd). They have ignored all calls and refused to respond to the Compnay Secretary for regulatory requirements in Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong and China.

“For investors who have not got their title deeds to the land purchased, you are advised to seek immediate legal recourse.”

Lawyers for the liquidators of Land International are now suing the Directors, claiming that they paid themselves, or their wives, £3.48 million, while failing to keep proper accounts.

The liquidators are also suing June Morris for £1.33 million, and Karen Meissner for over £283,000.

This latest legal action demonstrates growing concern over the ‘land banking’ industry. The FSA has five active investigations going through the courts, involving more than £42 million of investors’ money. Investigations are also looking into a further 20 land companies.

This is despite the fact that the FSA has no power to regulate the sale of land. It may only intervene in ‘collective investment schemes’, when sellers also offer to manage the land and apply for planning permission on behalf of the plot owners.

Jonathan Phelan, head of unauthorised business at the FSA, told the Daily Mail:    “Many land banks are careful not to describe their operation as a collective investment scheme in their promotional material, so we cannot prove they are running these schemes without the help of investors.


“That is why we ask anybody who has dealt with a land bank to contact us. The information we get can help us protect hundreds, if not thousands, of potential investors.”

By Katie-Jill Rowland

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