Insolvency Service
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High Court shuts down fraudulent South American gold mines investment scheme

Five companies, who collectively offered and provided an investment vehicle for partnerships in gold mining projects in South America, were wound up by the High Court on 17 August 2016 following an investigation by the Insolvency Service.

The group of connected companies - Santo Montana LLP, Lorem Ipsum Trade Services Limited (Lorem Ipsum), Cedar Trade Services Limited (Cedar), McKinley & Grant Ltd (McKinley) and Evolution Trade Services Limited (Evolution) - have been operating an unauthorised, fraudulent goldmine investment scheme, with the companies between them banking over £330,000 in respect of the gold mining scheme.

The companies are connected by one individual who has exercised control over those companies, Mr Harvey Bennett.

The petitions to wind up the companies were presented in the High Court on 4 July 2016, following confidential enquiries by Company Investigations, part of the Insolvency Service.

Lorem Ipsum, Cedar, McKinley and Evolution all acted as sales agents for the gold mining scheme, in which partnership rights were sold in the investment vehicle Santo Montana LLP, which was said to hold rights to gold mining concessions in Peru.

Those agents, none of whom were authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority, cold called unsuspecting members of the public, whose names had been acquired from database leads, offering them the opportunity to invest in three existing gold mining concessions in South America via Santo Montana LLP.

Prospective investors were enticed by offers of an initial dividend of 20% to 50% of their investments, i.e. £3,000 per share, and further dividends every six months for a period of 6 years. No such returns were ever paid. Prospective investors were told that they could expect, ‘on a conservative basis’, to receive returns of between 206% and 457% over their 6 year investment term.

The investigation found that prospective investors were informed that Santo Montana LLP had a joint venture stake in unspecified mines in South America, with at least one of those located in Peru, the joint venture partner being a company called Montana de Oro S.A. Not only could that company not be traced but Santo Montana LLP failed entirely to cooperate with the investigation, its registered office location having been vacated without notice and the last of its designated members having resigned by January 2016, leaving the investment vehicle essentially rudderless since that time.

The investigation found no evidence that any of the funds paid by the investors had been used to acquire or to finance Santo Montana LLP’s investment in any gold mines or that Santo Montana LLP had any genuine interest in any gold mines, whether in Peru or otherwise. In the absence of cooperation from any of the companies, the limited accounting records obtained appear to show the main beneficiaries of the fraudulent scheme being sales agents and Mr Bennett.

The selling companies appear to have been abandoned or to have ceased trading by late 2015 save for Evolution, who had agreed to take over all administrative services for Santo Montana LLP as of January 2016. However, the only contact information made available to Santo Montana LLP investors, including those who had made carbon credit purchases, is a website address, www.evolutiontradeservices.net, a website not currently accessible.

With Santo Montana LLP having abandoned its trading premises Santo Montana LLP investors have no means to contact any of the scheme companies.

Notes to Editors

Santo Montana LLP, registration number OC391799, has its registered office as at MDO Business Land Centre, Suite 3 Madeira Avenue, Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, SS9 3EB. The company vacated that office in December 2015, with its whereabouts unknown after that time.

Evolution Trade Services Limited, registration number 07964783, has its registered office at 35 Kings Road, Brentwood, Essex, CM14 4DJ. This is the address of a barber shop, whose owner had at one time acted as a mailbox provider for an accommodation office service provider, Total Financial Planning Limited, who provided registered office facilities to Evolution and Cedar.

Lorem Ipsum Trade Services Limited, registration number 09022762, has its registered office as c/o N Lopez, 61 Carlton Road, Westcliff on Sea, Essex, SS0 6QN, with a Nicola Lopez being that company’s current appointed director.

McKinley & Grant Limited, registration number 09272649, has its registered office at 17 Robertsons Avenue, Duckmanton, Chesterfield, S44 5JR, being the residential address of a relative of that company’s current appointed director, Gary Noakes.

Cedar Trade Services Limited, registration number 09024326, has its registered office as c/o Mr C Charimba, 36 Denmark Road, Bournemouth, BH9 1PB, with a Cassidy Charimba being that company’s current appointed director.

The petitions to wind up the companies were presented in the High Court on 4 July 2016, under the provisions of section 124A of the Insolvency Act 1986 following confidential enquiries by Company Investigations under section 447 of the Companies Act 1985, as amended.

By virtue of the winding up orders all public enquiries concerning the affairs of the companies should be made to: The Official Receiver, Public Interest Unit, 4 Abbey Orchard Street, London, SW1P 2HT. Telephone: 0207 637 1110 Email: piu.or@insolvency.gsi.gov.uk.

Company Investigations, part of the Insolvency Service, uses powers under the Companies Act 1985 to conduct confidential fact-finding investigations into the activities of live limited companies in the UK on behalf of the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

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