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Man who sold land illegally in UK banned for life

Stephen Watkins, who traded as Consolidated Land UK, sold over £11 million worth of land much of which was subject to planning restrictions. He told buyers he would seek planning permission on their behalf and even help them to then sell the land at a profit.

But the court heard that he had no intention of seeking planning permission or helping the buyers, many of whom paid him with their life savings.

The judgment ordered Watkins to make an interim repayment of £920,000, via the Financial Services Authority (FSA), to his victims and banned him for life from selling plots of land.

The FSA does not regulate the sale of land but land banking amounts to collective FSA so his land sales were illegal.

‘The judgment was the result of a lengthy FSA investigation involving over a year of litigation against Watkins. We would like to thank the people who came forward to help us with our investigation. Their cooperation and evidence were invaluable and played a key role in the decision,’ said Tracey McDermott, the FSA’s acting director of enforcement and financial crime.

‘Anyone thinking of conducting financial services without FSA authorisation should take note. As this and many other recent and ongoing cases show, the FSA is not afraid to mount complex Court proceedings, both criminal and civil, to protect consumers and seek redress from unauthorised persons,’ she explained.
‘Anybody investing in land should always have it independently valued to check its worth.  Furthermore, if you are ever sold land as an investment, and on the basis that someone else will manage it for you as part of a wider site, you should seek the advice of an independent financial adviser authorised by the FSA,’ she added.

The FSA first took High Court action against a land banking firm, UK Land Investments Limited, in 2008 and most recently obtained a High Court winding-up order against Plott UK Limited, another land banking operation, on in June 2011.

The FSA is currently pursuing six other High Court cases against additional land banking operations having obtained initial injunctions against all of them and is actively investigating several more.
Anyone who believes that they may have been contacted by a land banking operation or any other unauthorised financial services provider should contact the FSA.