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June 2021

Merydion Hotels Scam

Merydion Hotels Scam 500 333 SOS Team

Merydion Hotels Scam

Earlier this week, investors in the four Merydion hotels scams (the Northop Hall Country House Hotel, The Belgrave Hotel in Chester, the Durker Roods Hotel in Meltham, and the Star Hotel in Great Yarmouth) were treated to a piece of theatre in the form of a letter between a law firm and its sales agent client.  The sales agent sent the letter to all investors.  The letter was choreographed to make it look as if it was between a law firm and a well-meaning sales agent, but its intended audience was the investors, hence the fact that the sales agent sent it out on the day it was written.  There is an air of urgency because there are a number of events going on behind the scenes.

The aim of the letter was:

1. To try to put investors off insolvency action and a subsequent investigation into an estimated £6m of investors’ money which is unaccounted for;

2. To make out that Michael McMahon and his associates were innocent victims of the Covid-19 pandemic and should be granted immunity from prosecution if they transfer assets;

Referring to Point 1, the lawyer made the following statement:

“I know from experience of similar schemes/liquidations (e.g the Shepherd Cox chain of hotels) that the only ‘winners’ are the insolvency practitioners – at the expense of the individual investors”;

Well…… this lawyer knows that’s not strictly true.  The ‘winners’ in the Shepherd Cox case were, until very recently, the four main shareholders in the Shepherd Cox companies.  Those people were Nick Carlile, Lee Bramzell, Adam Stanborough and Daniel Bowden.

Nick Carlile has been made bankrupt so he no longer counts as a winner.  Lee Bramzell is facing a bankruptcy hearing in July and his hotel empire is crumbling (see this LINK to our article on Festival Hotels Group) so he may have been a winner for a while, but it’s not looking so good now.  That leaves Adam Stanborough and Daniel Bowden.

The Administrator of the six Shepherd Cox companies in which hotel rooms were sold has been pursuing those four shareholders for the repayment of what he alleges were “illegal dividends”.  We have clients who are creditors in the Shepherd Cox companies and they keep us updated on events.

It is alleged that up to £2m was paid out to these four shareholders as dividends.  Dividends can only be paid to shareholders out of profits.  None of the six Shepherd Cox companies ever made a legitimate trading profit, therefore the Administrator is demanding the money is repaid to the companies for the benefit of creditors, most of whom are hotel room investors.

The lawyer representing the Merydion sales agent and who made the statement above knows quite a lot about the Shepherd Cox scam.  He is defending one of the shareholders who is refusing to repay the dividend to the Administrator.  It’s a bit rich that this lawyer has the nerve to say the only ‘winners’ are the insolvency practitioners when he is defending one of the biggest winners and one of the architects of the Shepherd Cox scam.  If the four shareholders returned their alleged illegal dividends, investors would have recovered more money than the hotels are actually worth.

We would say that this lawyer’s client is currently ‘a winner’ because he is sitting on a pile of investors’ money and is refusing to return it. The client is Daniel Bowden and he has been involved in hotel room scams since 2014.  Mr Bowden wrote to us a while ago requesting that we remove his name from the website as he was nothing more than an innocent party (his words).  We did not reply and did not remove his name because we have emails sent by him to investors in which he describes himself as “Shepherd Cox – Sales Director”.  We don’t regard a Sales Director with a history of being involved in failed hotel room scams as an innocent party.  You can see the Shepherd Cox team of ‘winners’ on this LINK

Now we find that same law firm is once again involved in representing a client who is on the wrong side of an investment scam.  This time it is the Merydion Hotels scam.  We received a letter from this law firm in February 2021 threatening us with all manner of consequences if we continued to expose the Merydion hotels scam. It was really quite bizarre because the law firm was instructed by the sales agent and was not actually representing Merydion or Michael McMahon, yet it attempted to mount a robust defence of the Merydion scam.  Is it a coincidence that the law firm is once again involved in representing a party involved in a hotel room scam ?

Referring to Point 2, the lawyer states:

“By threatening Mr McMahon with the jeopardy of a statutory investigation into the whereabouts of investment money, but having the power to offer him immunity from that jeopardy, I would be surprised if he was not amenable to transferring the freeholds for a nominal/reasonable price”.

The key point here is “to offer him immunity”.  That’s what this letter was really about.  From this point on we have to be careful because we have information which is not in the public domain and which we cannot publish because it forms the basis of potential claims by an investor group against a third party.

As this lawyer knows from his experience of representing a Shepherd Cox man, quite often investors have a claim against third parties which can only be brought by an administrator and which only becomes apparent when a company is put into an insolvency process and the banking records can be examined.  An administrator’s claim in these kinds of scams can often exceed the value of the properties involved.  It is clear to us that both Michael McMahon and this lawyers’ client are very keen to avoid scrutiny of their financial dealings.

The administrator in the Shepherd Cox case is also the administrator of Merydion Corporation Ltd.  We would be surprised if the administrator didn’t have a keen interest in all Merydion assets and in preventing their dispersal.  It looks like the lawyer and the administrator are going to be on opposite sides once more. Maybe the lawyer will defend Michael McMahon ?  Maybe he’s defending him now by asking investors to consider offering him immunity from prosecution ?

We also believe it is likely HMRC has a very serious interest in this matter considering that Merydion Corporation Ltd was charged with money-laundering and tax evasion offences and did not mount a defence to those charges.  It is already clear to us from our investigations that some of these other Merydion companies have been engaged in similar activities, some of which include the hotel-owning companies.

The investor the sales agent is keen to push forward as ‘co-ordinator’ is involved with Alastair Dobbie in another case and tried to bring him into Merydion.  You can read our last article on  Alastair Dobbie here – LINK.  Once again, the same people popping up in different scams.  In the Alastair Dobbie cases we discovered that the people who claimed to be investors and who put themselves forward to lead the investor groups were actually sales agents who sold the scam to investors in the first place.

The Merydion hotels scam is an intriguing case.  We’ve never come across someone who NEVER shows his face to investors and always uses third parties to deliver messages.  This time it’s the master sales agent with their stage-managed letter.  Before this choreographed letter written for investors’ benefit was issued, it was Sam Doyle and Philip Heron-Carne who were the spokespeople for Michael McMahon. It’s never McMahon himself. Even the emails which say they are from McMahon do not come from him.  The sales agent and the lawyer have Michael McMahon’s mobile number. They could give it to the investors so that they can speak to him. They could also arrange a Zoom meeting so investors can see him. But no, they’re not prepared to do that. Whatever happens they must keep Michael McMahon at arms length from investors and all other creditors.  He might say something which points to what’s really been going on.

Here’s a simple solution.  The lawyer takes Michael McMahon as a client so that he is then authorised to deal directly with investors, or he takes on investors as clients so that they are covered by his insurance should the transactions be challenged and reversed in the future because that’s a very real possibility.  There’s also the question of the liabilities investors would be taking on as the owners of the hotels because contracts normally transfer to successors. The lawyer would then be held accountable for the advice he gives to investors on that matter too.

We believe there is a small group of very worried people who are ducking and diving trying to avoid an investigation into the Merydion companies and the money trail.  We’ve spoken to a few investors and they’re not buying it.  They’re not willing to grant immunity to McMahon or his accomplices because they want to know where the £6m has gone and whether any of it can be clawed back.

What’s next we wonder…….

To view our previous article on the Merydion Hotels Scam please click here – LINK.

 

Lee Bramzell’s Festival Hotels Group

Lee Bramzell’s Festival Hotels Group 450 676 SOS Team

Lee Bramzell’s Festival Hotels Group.

In December 2020, Nick Carlile and Lee Bramzell both issued their Individual Voluntary Arrangement (“IVA”) proposals to their creditors.  The purpose of an IVA is to persuade creditors that it is in their best interests NOT to bankrupt the debtor.  The debtor lays out the reasons why he/she believes the creditors will recover more money by refraining from making them bankrupt and by allowing the debtor to present a repayment plan.

The IVAs of both Nick Carlile and Lee Bramzell required creditors to agree to them retaining their main residences and cars.  Both IVAs were withdrawn prior to the court hearing in January because it was clear that they did not have the support of enough creditors.

The key element in both IVAs was that they owned shares in Festival Hotels Group companies which would, according to their proposals, generate a lot of income in the years ahead which could be used to repay some of the debt.  The argument was that if the debtors were made bankrupt the creditors would lose the opportunity to recover some money from the operations of FHG.

We pointed out in an earlier article [LINK here] that lenders had charges over the Festival Hotels Group assets and could easily call in those charges as soon as the IVA was agreed with creditors, thereby leaving Festival Hotels Group and all the creditors with nothing.  The lenders had prior relationships with Nick Carlile and Lee Bramzell so we were concerned something underhand might have been planned.

If the creditors agreed to the IVA it was entirely possible they could end up with nothing whilst allowing both men to avoid bankruptcy.  It is not possible for creditors to go back to a bankruptcy petition if an IVA has been agreed in court, so creditors needed to be sure that Festival Hotels Group was going to last the course.

In May this year Nick Carlile issued a new IVA proposal.  It included the same repayment plan, but this time he was willing to include his house and cars as part of the settlement for creditors.  The IVA still didn’t gather enough support and the court made an order for bankruptcy against Nick Carlile.

Lee Bramzell has a court hearing in July concerning his bankruptcy petition and has not yet issued his revised IVA proposal, however it appears that things are turning out as we originally thought.  The lenders appear to have pulled the plug on Lee Bramzell’s Festival Hotels Group and have begun taking action to recover some of their loans.  They haven’t even waited for Lee Bramzell’s hearing in July.

One of the lenders, Luqa Ltd, put the Crab and Lobster property company into receivership last week.  Here is a LINK to the Companies House record.  At the same time, a filing was lodged at the Land Registry protecting the interests of a prospective purchaser of the New Hobbit Hotel, Sowerby Bridge.  This is another Festival Hotels Group property.  The intended purchaser of the New Hobbit Hotel is a brand new company owned by one of the lenders.  Here is the LINK to that company, Minories H Ltd.

On the same day Minories H Ltd was formed, another eight ‘Minories’ companies were also formed:  Minories A Ltd, Minories B Ltd, Minories C Ltd, and so on.  It doesn’t take a genius to work out what is likely to happen next.  We could be wrong, but it looks like there’s a ‘Minories’ company lined up for each FHG property.  The director of these Minories companies is Peter Robert Shakeshaft who was appointed as a director of Festival Hotels Group in December 2020 !  We commented on him in this article.

We wonder whether the lenders inserted their man into Festival Hotels Group so he could have a good look under the bonnet before they made their move.  These events bring into question the long-term viability of Lee Bramzell’s Festival Hotels Group.  It is worth remembering that the Festival Hotels Group companies were incorporated to transfer hotels away from Shepherd Cox to ensure senior lenders were protected at the expense of ordinary room investors.

 

Scam Alert

Everest Trade BVBA Scam

Everest Trade BVBA Scam 300 233 SOS Team

Everest Trade BVBA Scam.

An organisation calling itself Everest Trade BVBA is perpetrating a follow-on-fraud against the investor victims of the Essex and London scam.  This follow-on-fraud uses the name of an existing, genuine company which is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority in the UK.  Here is a LINK to the FCA register for the genuine company.  FOR CLARIFICATION:  THE GENUINE COMPANY IS NOT INVOLVED. ITS DETAILS HAVE BEEN CLONED BY THIS SCAM GROUP.

This scam was distributed four days after Essex and London investors received another follow-on-fraud approach.  The first approach was made by Kingsgate Insolvency Services which we covered yesterday in this article [LINK].

Here is the email which investors have been receiving:

From: Everest Trade [mailto:info@everesttradebvba.com]
Sent:
To:
Subject: Holdings Offer and N B A

Dear 

I am writing to confirm that this is an offer from a longstanding client that we represent ‘ Abu Dhabi Investment Authority’. Now should you choose to accept the offer we will be given a payment date within 3 – 5 business days. If you have a question regarding any compensation owed I recommend that you speak with Kingsgate Insolvency Services as unfortunately this is not my area of expertise. In regards to our fees, we our paid by the clients we represent, so should you decide to accept this offer you will not need to pay us any fees or commissions! With that being said all we ask is that once you are paid, that you consider a few investment ideas with us (no obligation)

Kind Regards

Julian Marks
Portfolio Manager

This email and any attachments are for the sole use of the intended recipient and may contain material that is proprietary, confidential, privileged or otherwise legally protected or restricted under applicable laws. Any review, disclosure, distributing or other use without expressed permission of the sender is strictly prohibited. If you are not the intended recipient, please contact the sender and delete all copies without reading, printing, or saving. Everest Trade BVBA is a private company registered in England whose office is at Exchange House, 40 Lime Street London EC3M 5BS.

The domain name of everesttradebvba.com was purchased on 18th March 2021.  The website is only two months old.

Investors then receive a follow-up email (see below):

Dear  

Please find attached a copy of the formal offer for your positions with Essex and London.

Should you choose to accept the offer, it has to be signed and returned within five working days.

If you have any questions or queries, feel free to give us a call or alternatively email us back.

Kind Regards

Kaylee Marks
Administrative Assistant

This email and any attachments are for the sole use of the intended recipient and may contain material that is proprietary, confidential, privileged or otherwise legally protected or restricted under applicable laws. Any review, disclosure, distributing or other use without expressed permission of the sender is strictly prohibited. If you are not the intended recipient, please contact the sender and delete all copies  without reading, printing, or saving. Everest Trade BVBA is a private company registered in England whose office is at Exchange House, 40 Lime Street London EC3M 5BS.

This email contains the Offer Letter below and a form for the investor to provide the scammers with his/her bank details.  The Everest Trade BVBA scam will use the investors’ bank details. The email states that Everest Trade BVBA will not charge any fees, but one of its scam partners will definitely ask for money once it has got the investor believing that a large sum is about to be transferred.

Everest Trade BVBA_Fake Offer Letter 

To view an updated article on this scam published in August 2021 please click this LINK.

 

Scam Alert

Kingsgate Insolvency Services Scam

Kingsgate Insolvency Services Scam 300 233 SOS Team

Kingsgate Insolvency Services Scam.

An organisation calling itself Kingsgate Insolvency Services Ltd is carrying out a follow-on-fraud against victims of the Essex and London Properties scam.

Essex and London Properties was a fraudulent investment.  The people involved have appeared in a UK court and have been charged with criminal offences.  You can read about that fraud on this [LINK].

The Essex and London Properties bonds have no value.  They are worthless.  There will never be any party interested in buying them.  It was a fraud and there are no assets to back up the bond.  This is just an attempt to extort money from the victims of a scam.

The people behind the Kingsgate Insolvency Services scam are carrying out a second follow-on-fraud at exactly the same time, but are using the name of Everest Trade BVBA for the second one.  We will report on that scam separately in the next few days.

We know that fraudsters often run several scams from the same office, but it is rare that they launch two follow-on-frauds targeting the same group of investors.  Normally they run one scam for a few months before launching the next one.  We think the launch of the second scam might have been for the reason described below.

The Kingsgate Insolvency Services scam website [LINK HERE] is hosted in Chisinau, Moldova.  That rings alarm bells and should be enough of a warning.  It suggests that the scammers are Eastern Europeans.  We see a lot of follow-on-frauds which originate from Bulgaria, Romania and Moldova.  Our website is regularly attacked by hackers located in those countries.

Here is a typical email sent out by the company:

“As discussed, please find attached a copy of the Auditors Report and conclusion of the audit conducted on Essex and London.  There are also contact details for the referral company as mentioned.

Should you have any questions or queries, feel free to give us a call or alternatively reply to this email.

Kind Regards
Amy Barnes
Administration

KINGSGATE INSOLVENCY LIMITED  Company number: =4651831

National House, 80-82, Wellington Road North, Stockport, Cheshire, SK4 1HW

Tel: 0161 961 0021  |  Email: info@kingsgateinsolvencyltd.com

The content of this message is confidential. If you have received it by mistake, please inform us by an email reply and then delete the message. It is forbidden to copy, forward, or in any way reveal the contents of this message to anyone. The integrity and security of this email cannot be guaranteed over the Internet. Therefore, the sender will not be held liable for any damage caused by the message.

The fake “Auditors Report” can be seen here Fake Auditors Report_RAW

What keen-eyed readers will note about this email and the website is that they don’t tie up.  The scammers don’t seem to know who they are !  Amy appears to work for Kingsgate Insolvency Ltd according to her email, but the website is in the name of Kingsgate Insolvency Services Ltd, a different company.  Well, most of the website is.  Kingsgate Insolvency Services Ltd is plastered all over it, except for the very bottom of the page which says “Kingsgate Insolvency Ltd uses cookies to ensure…..”.  Once again, they don’t know who they are supposed to be working for.  It’s a high quality website run by low quality scammers.

Their letters aren’t any better.  You will note from this letter sent as an email attachment to an investor that they are just as confused.  Mr Dorset writes to investors on Kingsgate Insolvency Services Ltd letterhead paper, but signs off as “Chief Practitioner, Kingsgate Insolvency Ltd”.

KINGSGATE LETTER TO INVESTORS_MAY 2021

This is an interesting follow-on-fraud because the scammers have realised that investors would be suspicious if a genuine insolvency firm was to ask them for money, so their strategy is to say “Sorry, we can’t help you recover money, but why don’t you try this firm who we know have been successful”.  They refer the investors to the next scammer team sat alongside them.  In this case they hand the scam over to their Global Enterprise Limited team with website www.globalenterpriselimited.com.

Fortunately, somebody appears to have reported that website as suspicious and it has been removed in the last few days.  The website was put up in January 2021 so we hope they weren’t able to con too many people before it was taken down.

 

Farewell to Bondreview – The Investor Champion

Farewell to Bondreview – The Investor Champion 350 329 SOS Team

Farewell to Bondreview – The Investor Champion.

We were very sorry to hear of the closure of the ground-breaking bondreview website [LINK HERE]. 

We have spoken to ‘Brev’ (the person behind that excellent website) on a few occasions because our paths have crossed when investigating and writing articles on scams.  We have always been impressed by the knowledge, understanding and research skills of the founder.  Not only that, the founder has a great writing style and writes superb articles.  It is no exaggeration to say that bondreview has genuinely helped thousands of investors understand how they have been scammed, who scammed them and what they can do about it in the future.  For those who have not read the farewell message we have copied it below.

Goodbye

Posted: 25 May 2021 01:00 AM PDT

Regular readers will probably have noticed that the output of Bond Review has continued to drop recently.

In the first year of Bond Review I reviewed over 60 investment schemes that were being promoted to the public; in the past 12 months I’ve reviewed a third of that number.

Although there are still far too many high risk investment schemes being promoted with impunity to the general public by search engines and social media, there are signs that the tide has lessened somewhat. When Bond Review was founded, there was a constant stream of people signing up for consumer finance forums asking whether London Capital and Finance was a safe investment. That is no longer the case, at least not to nearly the same extent.

In 2017 minibonds were mostly ignored by the press other than very occasional articles warning investors of the risks (and sometimes promoting them). They were also, as covered here extensively, completely ignored by the FCA. That is certainly no longer the case, with the collapse of London Capital and Finance (along with lesser schemes) hitting the mainstream press and the subject of Parliamentary enquiries.

But the main reason I am bringing the blog to a close is that I simply don’t have the time any more. Maintaining the trickle of bi-weekly articles (with regular lapses) has often meant staying up past midnight (and drinking too much wine) simply because it was the only hour in the day available. I have a full-time job, a family, a sports club to get back up off the ground after being shut down during the pandemic, and the blog. Something has to give.

I remain proud of what Bond Review has achieved. I know for a fact that as a result of my reviews, millions of pounds whose owners could not afford to lose them have been saved from high-risk investment schemes which subsequently collapsed. I know this because the people that ran them told me so in the course of their legal threats.

All I have done for three and a half years is to post the facts, and nothing but the facts, about the risks of unregulated investments, so that investors can make their own minds up. At times this meant my coverage was open to charges of being “anodyne” or “mealy-mouthed”, but it was sticking to what was verifiable and in the public domain that allowed me to stand behind my coverage for this long.

I considered going public with my identity but have nothing to gain from doing so. At least three different people have been identified as Brev by various idiots posting spam online. None of them are me.

I originally called this article “Indefinite hiatus” but then I remembered how annoying it was when I was reading webcomics twenty years ago and authors would forever be going on “hiatuses” (hiati?) that left you forever wondering whether they’d come back. So no hiatus, just an unambiguous goodbye, and an end to three and a half years that has often been stressful, draining, fascinating, heartbreaking and (emotionally) rewarding in equal measure.

Thanks to all the readers who have read this far. In the early weeks of writing Bond Review I got excited whenever my pageview count went up by 1 (and even more excited when it wasn’t from me). For many weeks posting articles felt like shouting at the bins. The stats, comments and messages of support all helped keep me going for as long as I have.

A special thanks to everyone who donated. If anyone feels they have been shortchanged by the sudden cancellation, get in touch via the Contact link above and I will happily refund any previous donations to their source. The handful of recurring donations to Bond Review have been cancelled at my end.

A final credit goes to Oz, the writer behind the website BehindMLM.com, which was a huge inspiration for Bond Review. If there are any readers of both they will have noticed a few similarities of style which are partly homage and partly lack of imagination on my part. It showed that it was possible to shine a light on an under-covered part of the financial world and keep it going in the teeth of concerted and relentless opposition. How Oz has kept it going for a decade (with a much higher output than I ever had) is beyond me.

Comments on all articles will be closed in a week on June 1st. I will continue to pay the hosting bill to keep Bond Review up for another year. It will then close for good on 25 May 2022.

I can continue to be contacted via the contact link above.

Have you thrown in the towel due to legal action?

When I started Bond Review I knew I needed to be prepared to stand up for myself in court, or there was no point in writing articles on this subject in the first place. A total of 13 different investment schemes have made legal threats to me. None of them have gone to court. Until today I had (unless memory fails me) withdrawn one solitary article from publication: a report on Blackmore Bonds’ brief sponsorship of the Kent Police rugby team.

So any suggestion that I have been intimidated into shutting down the blog is a perfectly reasonable guess but incorrect.

Nor have I been paid off. I have never (despite offers) accepted money to remove any article from Bond Review, and never will.

A number of articles have been pulled from view today because keeping them up for another year is not worth the time and money it would require. This should not be misinterpreted as an admission that anything in them was false. I cannot comment further. There are special circumstances and anyone who thinks I might be persuaded to pull other articles for no reason (before the website closes) should save their breath.

 

Many scammers will be breathing a sigh of relief that bondreview has ceased operations.  It was a constant thorn in their side.  We also receive regular threats of legal action.  Five so far this year. Most recently from Alastair Dobbie who you can read about here.  We’ve also been offered money if we would take down articles.  Like bondreview, we have never accepted and never will.

So we join the many readers in saying Farewell to Bondreview – The Investor Champion.  It will be sorely missed by those committed to investigating and exposing scams, and by investors who have fallen victim to scammers.

 

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