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Sunday, April 15, 2012

Land scam/fraud?

Land scam and/or fraud?

Some years ago I was approached by what I thought was a reputable company with regard to purchasing agricultural land as an investment. The salesman assured me that a project had been started and permission had been applied for to build on the land. I purchased a plot of land for €12,500 and financed the purchase by cashing in an investment policy. I was assured that the investment would be realized within 5 years at the most with a yield of 500-700%. I had planned to use any profits/returns for the renovation of our family home.
I was later approached by the same salesman from the same company about another land investment project (same conditions – planning etc.). The plot of land here would cost more than €70,000. I told the salesman that I didn't have that sort of capital available, so he asked me about what investment and pension policies I had. I gave him my policy details and he assured me that his company was also an expert in the liquidation of policies and that they, as experts, could easily raise the required funds. I signed the transfer papers but informed their representative that the papers I'd signed would transfer the values between policies, but he assured me that this would not be the case. Of course later, this is exactly what happened, and absolutely nothing was liquidated! The papers and intention to buy "contract" were signed on the understanding from both the salesman and representative that if the financing wasn't realized, there would be absolutely no costs on our part. Also during the signing, the representative assured us that everything was the same as the last time – "no deal, no pay", but he was in a hurry because he'd only paid to park his car for a few minutes (coincidence?)!
For obvious reasons (mainly the company's incompetence) no money was raised from our policies, and I thus assumed that the deal was automatically dead.
Imagine my surprise when I was approached by a bailiff more than a year later, requesting payment of the €70,000.+, and from a company I'd never even heard of! They have since taken us to court suing us for €30,000+ "compensation" – this is still ongoing! As a result of this, I looked into both cases and it turns out that there has never been any attempt to obtain permission to build on the land, and also, the plot numbers don't tally with what the local councils have on record!
I named all the companies involved, and also the names of contacts, lawyers and company owners in a blog article, but have since removed it under threat of a libel action (see Libel Threat)! The truth hurts!
Is this not a scam, if not at least fraud?
I later found out that the sales company had stolen my details from a company where we'd invested in teak plantations.
I have since reported the companies and people to the relevant financial authorities who are looking into the matter and up to now have shut down one of the companies. It's a pity that more people don't do the same so that these companies can be stopped and hopefully even prosecuted.
After conducting some investigation myself, it turns out that these scammers (fraudsters) set up several companies and every few years declare them bankrupt and shifting "assets" to newly setup companies owned either by themselves or relatives. Seemingly they've found some loophole in the law. The local taxation authority must be losing hundreds of thousands due to these fraudsters!
By the way, this all took place in the Netherlands, but probably happens all over Europe, if not worldwide.

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