Defendants sentenced in FCA prosecution of £1.4 million investment scheme
Samrat Bhandari, Dr Muhammad Aleem Mirza, Michael Moore and Paul Moore, each of whom played a role in the operation of an investment scheme which led to investors losing just over £1.4 million, appeared at Southwark Crown Court to be sentenced.
Commenting on the case, Mark Steward, Director of Enforcement and Market Oversight at the FCA, said:
“The perpetrators of this scheme repeatedly misled investors for their own gain. The FCA is committed to ensuring that the operators of unauthorised investment schemes are brought to justice and are accountable for their misconduct.”
Samrat Bhandari, whom the Judge described as “the prime mover” in the sale of shares had his sentencing adjourned. He offered to arrange funds to reimburse investors in this period. However, this offer was subsequently withdrawn. Mr Bhandari will be sentenced in late January 2018, and was remanded in custody until that time.
Dr Muhammad Aleem Mirza was sentenced to 15 months’ imprisonment. He was disqualified as a director for 8 years. The Judge said that his dealings had “brought about his professional ruin” and that he had put his own ambitions and pride before his responsibilities as the director of a company.
Both Mirza and Bhandari were convicted on 30 November 2017, following a trial at Southwark Crown Court lasting 49 days.
Michael Moore was sentenced to 15 months’ imprisonment and his brother Paul Moore to 9 months’ imprisonment; both had pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing. The Judge said that Michael Moore knew exactly what he was doing from the outset of his involvement in the scheme. Michael and Paul Moore are already serving seven years’ imprisonment resulting from their involvement in a separate investment scheme. They will serve their sentences consecutively, meaning they will serve total sentences of 8 years 3 months and 7 years 9 months respectively. They had both previously been disqualified from holding the position of director for 10 years.
At the hearing the FCA commenced confiscation proceedings against each defendant, with a view to recovering from each the benefit they gained from their criminal conduct. In due course, the FCA will invite the Court to order that sums confiscated from the defendants are used to compensate the victims of their crimes.
In sentencing, Judge Loraine-Smith noted that the purpose of the legislation is to protect investors investing in public companies.
Between 2009 and 2014, each of the four defendants played an instrumental role in the systematic and prolonged misleading of investors, many of whom were vulnerable, retired individuals, through the creation of a wholly misleading impression as to the value and prospects of Symbiosis Healthcare Plc (“Symbiosis”). Dr Aleem Mirza set up Symbiosis as a company purporting to offer “healthcare solutions” and Samrat Bhandari, as director of William Albert Securities Ltd, acted as corporate advisor to Symbiosis and organised the selling of Symbiosis shares. Both were responsible for publishing misleading statements and exaggerated promotional material which was designed to fool investors. Additionally, investors were cold-called by brokers, including the Moore brothers, and mis-sold shares in Symbiosis. Despite promises to investors of large profits, and extravagant claims about the operation and expansion of a network of medical clinics in Dubai and elsewhere, in reality the shares in the company were effectively worthless. In total, over 300 investors lost just over £1.4 million through the scheme.
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.