ASSET LAND INC
Asset Land Investment Inc
Via Richardo J. Alfaro,
Floor 19, Suite 1906
Republic of Panama
- Extract from sales copy
- Your feedback
- Update: FSA Press Release 13 July 2012
Extract from sales copy:
The Asset Land Group prides itself on efficiently managing even the smallest
of land and property acquisitions. Our property investment professionals utilise
their expertise to locate prime sites. Here at Asset Land Investment, Inc., we
have developed a simple process by which individual investors are able to purchase
plots of land for sale in prime locations.
15th February 2012:
note that Asset Land has recently contacted us to say that they did not receive
our original letter with our questions which was faxed to them, and they have
promised to reply. They say that the vast majority of our report is factually
inaccurate. Their reply will be posted here as soon as it is received, and the
rating given in this review may be changed in view of their reply, so please check
back in a few days to read their reply.
The Asset Land Group sells plots of agricultural land. They say that they have
the "expertise to locate prime sites" and that they are able to identify
"strategically placed sites with investment potential in areas where a genuine
need for new homes exists".
Their group company Asset Land Investment Inc say that they are part of the
Asset Worldwide Group and they have "one of the largest networks of property
contacts in the world", together with a panel of tax and pensions specialists
and 30 years of combined property experience to enable them to offer you a good
service in buying their land plots.
Asset Land buys undeveloped greenbelt sites without planning permission and
divides them up into plots for sale to individual investors. The individual investors
hope that the land will be re-zoned for residential development so that they can
make a big profit from selling their plot to a developer.
Sites where Asset Land has bought greenbelt land and divided it up into plots
are as follows:
- Huby, Harrogate
- Ashwell Road, Steeple Morden, Baldock, Herts
- Magna Park, Lutterworth
- The Chase, Wash Water, Newbury
- Mountfitchet, Stansted
Asset Land say that "land has been proven to consistently outperform every
other major asset, including the housing market. For example, since the year 2000
house prices have increased by 108%, trailing way behind the impressive performance
of and at 1654% for the same period".
"Development is inevitable", according to Asset Land, because of the
shortage of new homes and the government's commitment to meet housing needs.
Asset Land Investment Inc say that they are a reputable company where "you
can be sure you are getting the best advice regarding the suitability of land
to be developed, so are sure to receive a good return on your investment".
But who is behind Asset Land Investment Inc?
And how have its land plot investments fared so far?
We looked into Asset Land Inc and its offer and came up with the following
twelve questions we sent to the company:
- Panama and a London accommodation address
Your corporate arrangements appear strange for a company which has only ever offered
land in the UK for sale.
Why did you choose to set up a company in Panama, with your head office in Panama,
instead of setting up a UK company?
This hardly inspires confidence. Panama does not have a good reputation: according
to the BBC website "Panama faces the challenge of shaking off its reputation
as a major transit point for US-bound drugs and illegal immigrants, and as a haven
Do you have a physical presence in Panama?
I see that your UK address at 64 Knightsbridge in London houses a business centre
which offers accommodation address services.
Do you have a physical presence in the UK?
- Who runs your company?
Your web site gives no details of the people running your business, and it would
be impossible to find out who is behind your company in Panama unless you were
willing to give this information. Also, you have chosen to take extra measures
to put the ownership of your website into a special privacy arrangement. One could
be forgiven for thinking that you are trying to hide something. Surely not.
Could you please say who runs your company.
- Apparent breach of UK company law
Your secrecy measures are not in fact permitted under UK company law. Companies
which are incorporated overseas but which have a UK address are required under
UK company law to register at Companies House and to file documents such as accounts
and details of directors so that these are available for public inspection.
I searched the records at Companies House but I was unable to find Asset Land
Investment Inc registered there.
- Importance of your company
Your brochure says that "The management team at Asset have made a huge impact
with some of the UK's largest developers and has an enviable reputation in the
land development industry".
If you are important to the UK's property development industry, then why is your
website languishing in the doldrums? According to Alexa , the web information
company at www.alexa.com, there are nearly 2.8 million web sites with more traffic
than your own.
Also, can you please point me to some information on the Internet to support your
company's "enviable reputation" because I was unfortunately unable to find
In addition, the only sites that your company has advertised for sale since your
website first became operational in April 2008 are as follows:
- Huby, Harrogate
- Ashwell Road, Steeple Morden, Baldock, Herts
- Magna Park, Lutterworth
- The Chase, Wash Water, Newbury
- Mountfitchet, Stansted
These sites cover less than 50 acres in total, so how can your company have had
a "huge impact" on the UK's land development industry?
Furthermore, it seems that these sites were divided up into plots and were sold
to individual investors, rather than being sold to developers. Is this right?
- Practical impossibility of any development
Even if some of your sites had been re-zoned for residential development then
I still don't see how it would be possible for any development to take place.
The number of plots per site seems to be at least 100, and for Lutterworth it
is around 400.
Neither your company nor your staff would be able to play any part in arranging
for the sale of the plots to a developer or organising any development, because
this would turn your scheme into an illegal collective investment scheme.
As you no doubt know, a number of other land banking companies and groups of companies
have been closed down in the UK in recent years because they promised to seek
re-zoning and/or planning permission on behalf of all the investors, and the FSA's
view is that this collective aspect turned the schemes into illegal collective
Therefore, any developer interested in buying the plots would need to contact
each of the individual plot owners and negotiate directly with them. If one or
more plot owners refused to sell (e.g. because they wanted to keep their plot
to build their own house on it, or because they wanted to hold out for a high
price) then the developer's project would be dead in the water. Surely, developers
know this and so they would never consider trying to buy a site which has been
sold off as individual plots?
So plot owners might decide instead to build houses on their plots on an individual
basis. But surely this would not be permitted, because there would be no connection
to utilities and no access road. Individual plot owners would not have any ownership
rights over the land needed to connect the utilities or to build the access road
- so that would be impossible too.
In effect, it seems to me that dividing a site up into a large number of individual
plots does the opposite of what you say it will do. You say that it will enable
small investors to gain a foothold in the UK land development market. But in practice,
surely it means that it puts the kibosh on any chance of the site ever being developed?
Or am I missing something?
- Numerous sales websites
In the course of my research, I came across a lot of other sales websites for
your company, as follows:
In fact, overall your company comes across as more of a sales operation than a
Please let me have your comments.
- Unauthorised collective investment scheme risks
The Disclaimer page of your web site says that:
"Asset Land Investments Inc is not authorised or regulated by the Financial
Services Authority or any other regulatory body. Asset Land Inc does not give
investment advice or offer regulated investment products to the public. Asset
Group offers parcels of land for sale. Having sold the land, Asset Land Investments
Inc does not pursue re-zoning or planning permission and as such, does not carry
on any regulated activities under the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000.
Neither Asset Land Investments Inc nor any person connected with it will have
any role in pursuing re-zoning or planning permission, with respect to either
individual parcels of land or a site as a whole, as a way of increasing the value
of the land. Asset Group gives no guarantees that land will in the future be re-zoned
for development purposes or that planning permission will be granted. The value
of land and any income from it may go down as well as up, and you may not get
back the original amount invested. Past performance is not a guide to the future.
ONLY FOR CONSUMPTION IN THE UK."
What does the final sentence mean? Surely the statements about your company not
having FSA authorisation, not giving investment advice and not seeking re-zoning
or planning permission for the plots are either true or they are not true? How
can they only apply to "UK consumption"?
Your disclaimer says that your company "will not have any role in pursuing
re-zoning" but there is a statement on the West Berkshire Council website
dated 18th June 2010 regarding your site at The Chase, Wash Water, Newbury which
says as follows:
"Asset Global Inc has requested that the land which constitutes phases 3 &
4 be included in the Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA) which
aims to identify potential sites for housing. Inclusion in the SHLAA does not
mean that the site will be included in the Site Allocations and Delivery Development
Plan Document or granted planning permission merely that it will be considered
and evaluated along with other potential sites."
Furthermore, it seems that your company also applied for re-zoning for your Lutterworth
site. Your website says "In December 2007 permission was requested for the
land to be placed in the development plan".
But, on the face of it, these applications for re-zoning seem to imply that Asset
Land Investment Inc HAS collectively managed these two sites and is therefore
at risk of having its scheme closed down as an illegal unauthorised collective
investment scheme. Surely not.
This seems impossible because not only do you seem to be well aware of the problem
of illegal land banking companies, but you also seem to fully disapprove of it.
In July 2011 you issued a press release to say that you were "delighted
with the announcement that The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has taken its
fight against illegal land banking to YouTube ... It is no secret that there is
a severe shortage of housing in the UK which is in dire need of being addressed,
so it is despicable that dishonest companies are exploiting this by selling unsuitable
plots to unsuspecting victims".
- High plot prices - and have any ever been sold for development?
The bad reputation of land plot companies in the UK in recent years has not just
been due to questions of whether they are operating legally or whether they are
operating illegal unauthorised collective investment schemes.
There have also been concerns about the high prices charged for plots.
The average price of grade 3 arable land in the UK in 2010 was £5,250 per
acre according to Savills. The size of your plots seems to be no more than a tenth
of an acre. At about £20,000 for a plot, this suggests that you are charging
nearly forty times the agricultural value. A plot would normally only be worth
such a high price if it was likely to obtain planning permission in a few years.
On your website, you say that "We only offer UK Land in prime locations
with excellent returns on investment".
But how can you say that, when none of your plots have achieved any return on
There is no indication on your web site that any of your plots have ever even
been sold for development.
- Telephone sales promises
Various other land plot companies have in the past also caused concern through
the unrealistic promises made by their telephone salesmen. Unfortunately, there
is some evidence that this may have spread to a few of your own salesmen, as follows:
- forum comment from a Northern Ireland financial adviser in March 2010 saying
that one of his clients had been approached to buy a plot at your Newbury site
in which "They have offered her a return of £50,000 in September 2011
for an investment now of £20,000".
- a report in February 2011 on the website of Newnham and Jordan Solicitors that
one of your salesmen for your Newbury plots promised that its value could "grow
over the next 18 months by 75%"
Could you please explain what controls you exercise over your telephone salesmen,
and how you check that these controls are adhered to.
Regarding the Lutterworth site, you say that "we here at Asset Group believe
this to be an investment with outstanding potential".
However, according to an article by Tony Levene on the website of the Guardian
newspaper dated 7 November 2009, "Harborough District Council, which includes
Lutterworth, says it has received many enquiries about land Asset Worldwide is
selling - and that planning permission remains remote. It says the land is 'unlikely
to be allocated or granted permission for housing in the future'."
- The Chase, Wash Water, Newbury
In April 2010 the website at www.newburytoday.co.uk reported that Trading Standards
chiefs had issues a warning concerning your company's offer of these land plots.
In your brochure for land plots at The Chase, Wash Water, Newbury, which seems
to have been written in 2009, you say that "Asset Land Inc believe 'The Chase'
Newbury to be an excellent investment opportunity which has sound planning potential".
By contrast, according to a statement issued by West Berkshire Council in June
2010 development of this site would be "contrary to current planning policy"
"The site lies outside the Newbury settlement boundary and development would
be contrary to current planning policy. Allocations of land for housing outside
the settlement boundary would need to come through the Local Development Framework.
During the preparation of the West Berkshire Core Strategy, a number of sites
throughout the District including the Enborne and Wash Water area were evaluated
for their strategic development potential over the current plan period, 2006 -
2026. This area was not assessed as one of the more sustainable locations and
is not proposed for development in the Proposed Submission Core Strategy which
was published on 26th February 2010."
In a statement given to Newbury Today your spokesman Andrew Coleman said "It's
true, any investment is like a casino, but this is a good investment, better than
putting money in the bank. ... We are not in the business of conning people."
However, if your investors have to pay many times the normal value for agricultural
land in the hope that it will be re-zoned and sold to a developer, then if the
land isn't re-zoned (or, even if it is re-zoned, no developer is interested in
buying it) then their investment will be worth far less than they paid for it
and they would have been much better off putting their money in the bank.
- Stansted, Mountfitchet
Your latest acquisition of agricultural land is a site of 3.7 acres close to the
village of Stansted Mountfitchet in Essex.
In a press release of 14 April 2011, you say that:
"With global population and increasing air passenger numbers, multi-million pound
investments in the area and identification at both a regional and governmental
level of the future growth surrounding the Stansted area, Asset Land Inc. are
confident that Stansted Park is an investment with the most exciting of future
In contrast, a statement on the web site of the local council - Uttlesford District
Council - points out that passenger numbers at Stansted airport have in fact been
falling. The statement from Uttlesford District Council also points out that,
whereas your site is in the greenbelt, the other housing developments you refer
to as being close to the village of Stansted Mountfitchet were "on sites outside
the greenbelt, on land identified for development in the development plan. They
are therefore not comparable to the land referred to by the company as 'Stansted
I also wonder why, as the only "Example Development" on your web site,
you show a photograph of a massive semi-detached house, saying that "Following
a feasibility study by Greenwood Bell - they have suggested that a housing project
of 18 upmarket homes as shown below would be an ideal development for our Stansted
site"? Surely, this is totally irrelevant because you decided instead to divide
the site up into 107 tiny plots?
The Stansted plot is 3.7 acres. There are 43,560 square feet in an acre, so that
means that each of your 107 plots is on average only 1506 square foot i.e. 39
foot x 39 foot for a square plot.
But surely that is not big enough to build any house on?
And, even if you could build houses on such small plots, it seems to me to be
beyond belief that planning permission would never be given for such incredibly
high density housing.
- Asset Land Investment plc
In researching your company, I came across a UK company called Asset Land Investment
plc of Loughton in Essex.
Not only is the name the same apart from the suffix, but this company is in the
same business of dividing agricultural land plots up into small plots for sale
to individual investors, currently offering for sale plots at a 7 acre site at
Liphook Hill in Hampshire.
Furthermore, some of the text on their website is identical to yours.
In his article in the Guardian in November 2009, Tony Levene said that Asset Worldwide,
"operates from a central London address and has a UK-registered PLC run from
an Essex address".
Also, there seems to be someone called John Pearce working for you. On your company's
website, a news item appeared on 18th May 2009 about the appointment of your "Newest
Team Member" John Pearce. John Pearce also works for Alliance Land plc
according to his profile on 4networking.biz. Alliance Land plc is a land development
company with the same address and the same two directors as Asset Land Investment
plc i.e. David Joel Banner-Eve, businessman, and Nigel Lord, tax consultant.
Are Asset Land Investment plc and Asset Land Investment Inc connected?
That's the end of the questions I sent to Asset Land Inc.
Buying a plot from a land plot company is fraught with difficulty, as explained
in this review. If you nevertheless want to buy a plot, then the way to protect
yourself is to appoint an independent Chartered Surveyor and Valuer to value your
plot for you so that you know if it's worth the purchase price. It's important
that you appoint a surveyor who has had no prior contact at all with the land
plot company. You should also appoint an independent lawyer to handle the transaction
for you - likewise, a lawyer who has had no prior dealings with the company.
I haven't had any reply from Asset Land. In view of the serious concerns raised
in this review, I'm rating it at zero out of ten.
P.S. We never did receive the promised reply from Asset Land about the claimed
inaccuracies in our report.
BOW Notice: A critical review which raises hard-hitting questions means that
in our opinion the business model or the investment model has flaws and/or we
have found inadequate evidence to back up claims about earnings, sales, profits
etc. It doesn't mean this evidence does not exist and it doesn't mean that the
promoters are unprofessional or dishonest. Questions arising are normally contained
within the body of the review, and readers who are interested should contact the
company with these questions and/or questions of their own.
Update: FSA Press Release 13 July 2012
The FSA has issued a press release dated 13 July 2012 stating as follows:
"Following a High Court order made on 13 July 2012, the Financial Services
Authority (FSA) can now report that on 13 June 2012 it secured asset freezing
orders against Asset L.I. Inc. (trading as Asset Land Worldwide), Equity Services
(London) Limited, and Asset Land Investment PLC."
You can read the full press release at this link:
Details of the companies are as follows:
Asset L. I. Inc appears to be the Panama company whose president, according
to a report on Sky
News is Stuart Cohen, and of which Stuart Cohen is the owner according to
a report in the Lutterworth
Equity Services (London) Ltd is a small company offering accounting, auditing
and tax consultancy services according to the information at Companies House.
Asset Land Investment Plc has four directors: David Joel Banner-Eve and his
wife and daughter, and Nigel Lord. According to Companies House, David Banner
Eve has 48 company appointments, although only 15 of these are current, the balance
being 10 he has resigned from and 23 in dissolved companies. Nigel Lord is shown
with 38 company appointments, of which 24 are current, 8 resigned and 6 in dissolved
The latest accounts of Asset Land Investment Plc filed at Companies House are
for the year ended 31st December 2010, showing a low turnover of £23,236
and a loss for the year of £94,606, with shareholders' funds of £76,205.
Of the 50,000 issued shares, 47.5% are owned by David Banner Eve, 47.5% are owned
by his wife and 5% are owned by Nigel Lord.
Have you tried this opportunity?
If you would like to comment on it please send
us an email. Your feedback will then be posted here anonymously unless
you tell us that you want your contact details included.
Feedback 16th October 2012 from Dismayed:
Dear Sirs, (Business Opportunity Watch)
I have read through your coverage of the current situation in respect of Asset
Land Inc with some dismay. I was contacted both by E-mail and telephone by representatives
of this company at the end of 2009. They were 'selling' plots on the Lutterworth
site and I have to say their sales pitch was very convincing, the backup statistics
seemed genuine and did check out, and their operative was very persistant.
He promised that the Lutterworth site would be under development by August or
September of 2010 as planning consent had already been obtained, and two major
developers were vying for the project. Unfortunately I enthused to a work colleague
who expressed a desire to join me in purchasing a plot on the site. At first we
were to buy a single housing plot at £12,500 but then 'cold feet' set in
and we withdrew our interest and asked for the initial deposit to be returned.
Once again the gentle sales pressure was applied and it was suggested that we
might buy half a plot as a test of the veracity of the scheme as it would be easy
for our salesman to find a buyer for the other half, as there were many other
investors waiting in the wings.
So we modified our purchase to a 'half-plot' and went through all the standard
legal procedures culminating in our receipt of a Land Registry Title to the piece
of land on 16th July 2010. We were contacted by the Asset Land operative again
regarding the Newbury site but declined to become involved pending the out come
at Lutterworth scheduled for "August or September" of 2010. Since then,
although we have had several mailings regarding the Company's further projects
and apparent successes, we have heard nothing about the Lutterworth site nor have
we been approached regarding any further investments.
I have to say, that their sales person was extremely patient and persistant, and
gave a disproportionate amount of time and effort into selling us this tiny piece
of land and once completed . . .nothing! I would be happy to supply any further
details of the transaction and would appreciate any information or links to information
as the FSA investigation proceeds.
Feedback 7th February 2013 from Landed:
Dear Business Opportunity Watch,
Agh! I purchased several plots from Asset Land Inc (or Equity Services London)
in excess of £20,000 which were to serve towards my eventual pension. Asset
Land were a slick operation with convincing collateral and figures, not to mention
extremely plausible salesmen. I've never considered myself gullible and so feel
sick-as-a-pike that I got turned over for such a lot of money.
I have been in contact with the FSA who have issued this press release as
of 11th Jan 2013 http://www.fsa.gov.uk/consumerinformation/scamsandswindles/
It looks rather bleak for the investors, partially because land banks are
unregulated and therefore not covered by FOS or the Financial Services Compensation
Scheme. And anyway, I have never heard of a company in this position paying out
the full amount of compensation owed after a court case. We shall see what the
result of the court case brings (end of Feb/March) and thousands of us will lick
our collective wounds.
I rated Asset Land at zero out of ten in the July 2011 issue of Business Opportunity
Watch on the grounds that not only did the company appear to be operating an unauthorised
collective investment scheme (which is illegal) but - as with all land banking
companies - dividing an area of land into a large number of individual plots which
are then sold to individual investors in fact means that it will be just about
impossible for the land to ever be developed, even if it had development potential
in the first place.
Unfortunately it was not until a year later, in July 2012, that the FSA took
action by freezing the assets of the companies and several individuals involved.
Feedback 3rd June 2013 from Edbanger:
I bought two Newbury plots in Aug 2010 and March 2011.
So despite being a Vet, I've been sold a pup and a pig-in-a-poke!
A cool £29,442 down the drain.....every time I was suspicious my queries
appeared to be covered.
Any chance of some back, maybe from Govt. at say 50%?
Yours from the dunce's corner,
Reply from BOW:
I'm sorry to hear that you were caught out by Assetland.
I'm not in any position to say whether there is any likelihood of recovering any
of your investment. However, in an interview given to the Mirror newspaper on
13th February 2013 Tracey McDermott, director of enforcement and financial crime
at the Financial Services Authority (now the Financial Conduct Authority), said
that "most, if not all, investors will only get a fraction of their money
The latest press release issued by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) says
that investors do not have to do anything at the moment (http://www.fca.org.uk/consumers/scams/news-and-investigations/asset-land-investors).
In February 2013 the High Court ruled in favour of the Financial Services Authority
but the defendants have recently been given leave to appeal.
I suggest you check the Internet regularly to see when the position changes so
that you will know when you need to register your interest with the FCA.
You may also want to join the investors' action group which has been set up at
By the way, you should not be too hard on yourself over this. Over the years,
I have seen not only intelligent professional people but also canny businessmen
caught by scams. The problem is simply that the average person does not expect
to be told a pack of lies.
Editor of BOW
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