£9m truffle scam, court shuts down companies responsible
Five companies carrying out an investment plan get shut down after promising high-value truffles for commercial sales.
In London, on 12th October 2018 Viceroy Jones New Tech Ltd, Viceroy Jones Overseas PCC Limited, Westcountrytruffles Limited, Truffle Sales Ltd and Credit Free Limited were in the High Court after their four-day trial.
It has been said by the Insolvency Service that 100 plus investors were cheated out of their savings, close to £9 million in total.
It was heard through the court that Viceroy Jones New Tech used a financial advisory firm that was unregulated to target people who had access to their pension savings.
Advisors worked closely with George Frost, the director of Viceroy Jones New Tech, Viceroy Jones Overseas PCC and Westcountrytruffles, convincing the victims to transfer their savings into Small Self-Administered Schemes. These were then operated by Viceroy Jones New Tech and Viceroy Oversea PCC.
The investors were told that their savings were funding oak and hazel tree saplings inoculated with truffle spores which would then be managed for 15 years at dedicated plantations worldwide. The truffles would then be grown and harvested on a commercial scale. Investors and plantation companies would then benefit from these sales.
Investigators from the Insolvency Service did not find any evidence that harvesting had ever taken place at any of the plantations. Including the overseas plantations in Spain and South Africa which were the first schemes sold to the public in 2012.
The companies devised complex contractual structures, manipulating costs to secure high-value investments. Investors paid between £750 and £995 per sapling and were promised that they would see remarkable returns within five years of the truffles being cultivated. During this time there were similar saplings available to the public costing only £7.95 to £9.95 per sapling.
The investors had no remedy to their investments and no contractual relationship with the plantation companies who were contracted for 15 years maintaining the truffles. Their funds were paid into third-party offshore bank accounts as commissions although there are no records to support this. Leaving £9 million worth of investments left unexplained.
Isobel Brett, Director, Bretts Business Recovery has commented “Prior to investing into a business make sure that you get advice from a credible source especially where pensions funds are concerned. Pension liberation fraud can occur if transferring pension benefits to an unregulated scheme before the age of 55 resulting in onerous tax implications on the individual.”