Connaught in the news

Posted on January 26, 2014


The plight of investors in the Connaught Income Fund Series 1 was highlighted by two major UK media today (Friday, 24 January).

Both the Daily Mail (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/money/markets/article-2544912/Capita-facing-100m-payout-collapsed-fund.html) and BBC Radio 4’s You and Yours programme (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01qj1qs) reported our concerns about Capita’s actions in concealing Connaught Chairman Nigel Walter’s central role in the UK Land Investments scam in January 2009, and subsequently in keeping from us the extensive information it held about problems with the Fund when it stepped down from the Operator function in September 2009.

In addition, the BBC report showcased allegations that the former regulator, the FSA, missed opportunities to close down the Fund which could have reduced investors’ losses. It included an interview with former Tiuta plc Chief Executive George Patellis, who remains astonished at the lack of action by the official body in response to him blowing the whistle in January 2011.

Both Rob Davies of the Mail and Shari Vahl of You and Yours reported our demand that the FCA issue a restitution order forcing Capita to buy our positions in the Fund at the price we paid, plus the two years’ missed interest and any consequential losses, less the distributions received from the liquidator to date. We anticipate this would cost Capita about £112m, of which an uncertain proportion could potentially be recovered by the liquidators in a series of litigations, over a number of years.

The Action Group continues to believe that this is the only just outcome. Investors were sold a ‘guaranteed’, ‘low risk’ fund generating a quarterly ‘income’. Two years have passed since the last income distribution, the guaranteed right to withdraw our investments on 30 days’ notice after the first six months was suspended two years ago in March, and rumours of multi-million pound loans to a convicted fraudster and a mentally deficient relative of a director suggest that the risks never were as described. Blame for all these failings falls at Capita’s door.

We hold Capita wholly responsible for all investment raised using the first information memorandum, which we now understand was written by Nigel Walter and was issued, unchecked, by the outsourcing giant. The same goes for funds subscribed in response to the Blue Gate version, because Capita has made the mistake of admitting that it either drafted or approved that document too. Likewise we believe Capita should make good losses on trading that occurred on its watch – it failed to carry out the most basic checks to ensure investors’ money was safe – as well as those that occurred after handover to Blue Gate, because we know at that point that Capita identified but failed to fix the many problems with the Fund, let alone to warn current and future investors that their money was in jeopardy.

Investors have good reason to doubt the competence of the regulator that existed until March 2013, the Financial Services Authority. It failed to prosecute Nigel Walter for his role with UKLI, allowing and emboldening him to move on to his next scam. Capita’s flagrant and repeated breaches of FSMA suggest it held the regulator in utter contempt. And the FSA’s failure to act on credible claims of investor jeopardy and wrongdoing presented by George Patellis is astonishing.

We now have a new regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority. Will it prove to be as useless as its predecessor? Or will it use this high profile case to prove to the industry that it has teeth, and to investors that they can have confidence in it? Our demand for a restitution order will be the first major test of its mettle.

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