In a criminal prosecution brought by the FCA, Samrat Bhandari and Dr Muhammad Aleem Mirza were found guilty this week for their roles in operating the investment scheme used cold-calling to push ‘worthless’ shares to often retired and vulnerable people.
A third defendant, Albene Mendy, was found not guilty. The trial at Southwark Crown Court lasted 49 days, with the jury’s verdicts returned yesterday (30 November 2017).
At an earlier hearing, two further defendants, brothers Michael and Paul Moore, pleaded guilty to offences in relation to the same scheme.
The four defendants will be sentenced later this month at Southwark Crown Court.
Between February 2009 and early 2014, brokers cold-called investors, many of whom were vulnerable, retired individuals, and mis-sold them shares in Symbiosis Healthcare Plc (“Symbiosis”).
Symbiosis was set up by Aleem Mirza, a medical doctor, to provide “healthcare solutions”. Samrat Bhandari was a director of William Albert Securities Ltd (“WASL”), a UK company which acted as corporate advisers to Symbiosis and organised the selling of Symbiosis shares. Albene Mendy also worked for WASL. Michael and Paul Moore were brokers directly involved in selling shares in Symbiosis to investors.
Despite promises to investors of large profits, and extravagant claims about the investment opportunity through the operation and expansion of a network of medical clinics in Dubai and elsewhere, in reality the shares in the company were, in effect, worthless, said the FCA.
The total value of investments made was around £1.4 million. Each of the four defendants played an instrumental role in the systematic and prolonged misleading of investors, “helping to create a wholly misleading impression as to the value and prospects of Symbiosis.” This was accomplished through misleading investors directly, on the phone, in correspondence, and in person, at Annual General Meetings, as well as through creating and publishing written statements and promotional material by or on behalf of Symbiosis.
Mark Steward, director of enforcement and market oversight at the FCA, said: “Misleading financial promotions relating to investment schemes cause untold harm to consumers.
“The FCA is determined to ensure those who are involved in setting up and operating schemes like this one, without FCA authorisation, are identified and held to account to the fullest extent permitted by law. In due course confiscation proceedings will be commenced, with a view to securing as much compensation as possible for those who have suffered a loss as a result of this criminal conduct.”
The FCA was assisted in the investigation and prosecution by a number of other law enforcement and government agencies, including the City of London Police, as well as by a number of investors in the scheme.