Oldie: CAD’s investigation into Profitable Plots will have next hearing on Nov 8

Apologies to PP watchers that this is really ancient news, but for the sake of completeness, CAD says it needs more time to figure just WTF is going on at PP, with the judge pushing the next hearing to Nov 8.

From Today “CAD given yet more time for probe

SINGAPORE – The courts have granted a time extension – for the third time – to the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) to continue its investigations into landbanking firm Profitable Plots, while awaiting the expert report from an accounting firm.

Representing the CAD, the state prosecutor argued in the Subordinate Courts yesterday that extending the investigation period was justified due to the large amount of investments involved. The court heard that complaints have now risen to 304 with investments totalling S$30 million.

During the last hearing in March, there were 229 complainants who alleged Profitable Plots had cheated them into investing in various schemes to the tune of about S$23.5 million in all.

With the time extension, the three bank accounts of Profitable Plots – amounting to about S$70,000 now – will remain frozen.

The firm’s coffers – frozen since it was raided last August by white-collar crime detectives – originally held S$277,590, but the High Court later ordered the partial release of monies pay the firm’s employees.

Defence counsel Wendell Wong had argued against the time extension, saying the expert report would not assist in deciding the ownership of the money left in the firm’s bank accounts.

Mr Wong said that the funds seizure had severely affected his clients, who are also facing another lawsuit.

The CAD was supposed to provide an update on investigations yesterday following a four-month time extension but Deputy Public Prosecutor Christopher Ong said that the accounting firm appointed in April could only produce the expert report next month and the report would be “crucial” in determining whether to press charges against the company.

No criminal charges have been pressed against Profitable Plots yet.

MediaCorp had previously reported that the company was being sued by broadcaster ESPN Star Sports for failing to pay up about S$4.9 million but claims against Profitable Plots directors John Andrew Nordmann and Timothy Nicholas Goldring for alleged misrepresentation, conspiracy and fraudulent trading are still pending.

Mr Wong also sought for the name of the accounting firm to be disclosed for greater transparency of the investigation process, adding that his clients have not been interviewed by the CAD since March.

District Judge John Ng agreed with DPP Ong that there was no legal basis to make known the accounting firm during ongoing investigations.

Allowing another four months for investigations, the judge said he was convinced by DPP Ong’s arguments that appropriate steps have been taken to conduct the investigations.

He added that the money in the frozen accounts should not be released until investigations have concluded as it could be linked to the complaints.

The next hearing is on Nov 8.

Malaysia high court upholds CCM’s declaration that Profitable Plots Sdn Bhd (a RM2 company) contravened Companies Act

Thanks to reader Peter B, we have an update from Malaysia on Profitable Plots. Bottomline: those holding “highly valuable” green belt title deeds for “Heathrow Airport land” will learn that squeezing blood from a RM 2 company is a highly educational, highly expensive and highly fruitless exercise.

First, we have highlights from The Sun Daily’s “UK land scheme shock

Many Malaysians have “invested” between RM100,000 and RM500,000 each in land in various parts of the United Kingdom, only to find out that they will not be able to make any returns on their investments.

Actual numbers are hazy but it is understood that with the setting up of Profitable Plots Sdn Bhd (PPSB), an agent for UK land banking schemes, there have been a number of locals who were caught unawares.

They were promised returns of between 250% and 500% after a few years but the titles to the land they are holding are not worth the paper they are written on.

Although they legally own the land, they can do little with it as the land is situated in “green belts” or undeveloped areas which are protected from any form of development or agricultural land where no development is likely to be permitted.

The authorities here have taken action against several firms promoting such schemes but have been unable to prevent them from operating in Southeast Asian countries, including Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei.

Because such land is unlikely to be approved for development, they are bought at low prices and divided into smaller plots and offered for sale on the basis that when future development plans are approved, these plots will be more valuable.

On Tuesday, the Kuala Lumpur High Court upheld Companies Commission of Malaysia’s (CCM) declaration in October 2008 that Profitable Plots Sdn Bhd (PPSB), which is involved in land investments in the United Kingdom (UK), had contravened the Companies Act…..CCM’s investigations indicated that the company not only coordinated and managed the process with buyers to ensure that they gained legal deeds on the land they bought, but also directly sold the land to these buyers which it was not authorised to do so. Furthermore, CCM said these buyers also had to sign a 20-year-option agreement that they will not object to any planning development close to their property.

Followed by The Sun Daily “Celebrities roped in to sell UK land

“Buy UK Land! We did!”

It sounded like the perfect business opportunity for Malaysians especially that investors could buy land so close to the world’s busiest airport for £8,000 (now RM40,000 but then about RM52,000) with the promise of a return of 250% within three years.

The company claimed in its website that the Lower Feltham Lakes site was ripe for a housing project comprising 1,000 homes and a previous entry boasted that development proposals had already been submitted.

However, Hounslow Council has confirmed that no application had been submitted.

No development can take place unless a planning inspector can be persuaded to overrule the site’s green belt status against the wishes of Hounslow Council, which opposes building there.

A council spokesman said: “We will develop green belt land only if there were very special reasons. We see no special reasons for doing so on this site.”

What can investors do?

Legal action to recover their monies is an option. But yet again, there’s a question as to which company – the UK or the Malaysian – which signed the contract? The Malaysian company has a RM2 paid-up capital and seeking redress may be a lengthy and costly exercise.

Malaysians who parted with their money have little to show – except a piece of paper which states they own a plot of land, which will remain undeveloped because of the strict laws on green belts and agricultural land.

They can offer to sell it, but it is unlikely that there would be any takers. The only consolation is a boastful “I own a piece of land near Heathrow Airport!”

Update: Profitable Plots scam claims value actually twice as large

A quick update on every Singaporean’s (and some say Batam’s) favourite scam. We admit it – we were way wrong in assuming that there would be roughly $1300 per claimant (there are about 100 of them) once CAD completes its investigations into the scam. It turns out now that there is even less, now that “salaries and fees” are deducted: it’s going to be about $550 per person – which would just about buy you the equivalent of 0.8% of the latest Open Category COE. Our advice to the claimants: don’t spend it all at once.

Take heart that the CAD investigations have at least screwed up Goldring’s $212 million Filipina sweet deal.

From Today “Complaints about land banking firm total $18m

SINGAPORE – The potential investment sinkhole that investors with land banking firm Profitable Plots may end up in now appears much larger than before.

It has emerged that the complaints to the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) involve a sum of about $18 million, almost double the $9.5 million reported previously.

And these 174 complaints are only part of the CAD’s preliminary findings. On behalf of the agency, which was supposed to submit its investigation report yesterday, the prosecution asked the court for more time to conclude investigations.

The court also allowed the CAD to continue to hold for the next three months the remaining $55,548 left in Profitable Plots’ three bank accounts, pending the investigations.

It was the first time, after two successful applications by the firm’s lawyer to unfreeze the firm’s accounts, that no monies were released.

Mr Wendell Wong, who had previously clawed back unpaid salaries from the accounts, argued yesterday that the CAD has yet to prove that the balance of funds were tainted or did not belong to his client.

No criminal charges have been pressed against the company, although three of its directors are believed to be assisting investigations following a CAD raid on its Stanley Street premises in August.

Mr Wong also disclosed in court that his client’s potential $212-million deal with Filipino parties has been jeopardised due to the alleged fraud investigations.

Among other preliminary findings, the CAD said that the sale of Boron bonds – for which Profitable Plots is acting as a marketing agent for Profitable Group – had exceeded US$2.5 million ($3.3 million) here.

AG unfreezes half of Profitable Plots’ bank account containing SGD 277K, “to pay salaries and legal fees”

Talk about the opening the barn door after the chicken has flown the coop (or some such mixed metaphor). AG unfreezes Profitable Plots account containing a veritable FORTUNE (*sarcasm*) of SGD$277K, in order to “pay salaries and legal fees”, never mind that the office is still empty. The disgruntled 100-plus Singapore PP investors can now look forward to claiming back approximately $1,300 per person, if at all, since it’s clear that the millions that they have sunk into UK “pao-chiak Green Belt investments” have already been conveniently parked way way outside of Singapore’s jurisdiction.

From BT “Profitable Plots scores a victory of sorts in the High Court”

The ongoing saga that has seen disgruntled investors of Profitable Plots pit themselves against its equally indignant owners continues to bubble and boil.

Yesterday the High Court awarded costs to Profitable Plots, in an action brought by the company against the Attorney-General’s Chambers. The court also ordered partial unfreezing of the company’s assets seized by the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) earlier this year.

Meanwhile, a CAD investigation report dated Oct 12, submitted as part of the proceedings, showed for the first time that the white-collar crime police had received a total of 106 complaints against Profitable Plots from investors who invested about $9.5 million. The CAD believes Profitable Plots’ liabilities and obligations to its clients far exceed its assets, giving the CAD ‘grounds to suspect that (the company’s investment) schemes were introduced to defraud its clients’.

Yesterday’s proceedings arose after Profitable Plots had, through its lawyer Wendell Wong of Drew & Napier, filed a complaint with the court about the CAD’s seizure of its bank accounts, saying it needed the money to pay its staff. The CAD had raided the company’s offices in early August and seized the company’s documents and frozen its three bank accounts with Citibank which held a total of $277,590.

The court yesterday ordered the unfreezing of more than half of that cash, permitting the company to use such funds for the payment of staff salaries and legal fees. And, in a rare move, it ordered the Attorney-General’s Chambers to bear Profitable Plots’ legal costs in this action.

Justice Lee Seiu Kin also directed the CAD to update the court on the status of its probe into Profitable Plots on Dec 9, so that the court could determine ‘whether the continued custody of the (bank) accounts should remain with the CAD’.

The CAD, in its Oct 12 report, said it seized the company’s bank accounts on suspicion of fraud relating to Profitable Plots’ marketing of an investment scheme involving a fuel additive, Boron CLS Bond.

The report said that a $25.8 million loss incurred by Profitable Plots and its related companies in FY 2009 and its inability to honour its obligations to the Boron investors gave the CAD grounds to suspect that the investment schemes were concocted to defraud its clients. It compared the complainants’ claims amounting to some $9.5 million to the company’s cash balance of $277,590. ‘In addition, the directors had benefited from the scheme as their reported remuneration in FY08 and FY09 was $4,431,539 and $4,181,174, respectively,’ the report said.

The saga has been an emotionally charged one, beginning with a group of disgruntled investors who turned up at Speakers’ Corner in June to protest against the company, claiming they were owed money. Since then, some have filed lawsuits against Profitable Plots, while others have written to BT, claiming they have not been paid on their investments.

Profitable Plots’ group managing director Tim Goldring told BT then that he believes the complaints and the resulting CAD probe are a result of ‘people (being) frightened of what they don’t understand’ – that is, the complex business of investing in land overseas.

Profitable Plots was set up in Singapore in 2005 as part of the global strategic investment entity that is Profitable Group and is popular among football fans through its ad campaigns.

Profitable Plots MD says (via Skype) CAD raid a result of scammed Singaporean investors’ stupidity

Apparently, Singaporeans just don’t know a good deal when they see one. At least, that’s the gist of the statement put out by Tim Goldfinger Goldring, MD of Profitable Plots, the company that is now famous in Singapore (and some say Batam) for screwing the average football-fan cum land-bank investor with endorsements by Robson, Mcmahon, Jamie Reeves and Shebby Singh. Setting aside the blatant attempt to avoid jail time (now that he’s booked his first class tickets to the Canary Islands, now that the Stanley Street office is shut down, and all phone lines are switched to voicemail) with unverifiable statements like “In the past 2 years, we have paid out $50 million to our investors” or “Even Prince Charles has plans to build on green belt”, we need to get back to the most important question of all: Was Tim Goldring and John Nordmann in Singapore when this BT interview was conducted? $10 bucks on “fuckno”. Any takers?

From BT (sub required) “Profitable Plot thickens, with a tinge of green”

Raided by CAD, the group’s MD claims some buyers don’t understand concept

(SINGAPORE) ‘Completely misguided’ is how the directors of strategic land investment firm Profitable Plots have described the complaints made against the company – complaints that have prompted the white-collar crime police to step in.

And the company, perhaps best known for its tagline ‘Buy UK Land! We did!’ – once uttered by some of the best-known names in football – is keen to set the record straight.

Last week, the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) raided the offices of Singapore-based Profitable Plots, carted away just about every document it had and brought its directors in for questioning.

This was two months after a group of disgruntled investors turned up at Speakers’ Corner to protest against the company, claiming they were owed money. Some investors have filed claims against Profitable Plots – although none have been successful so far.

Profitable Plots’ group managing director Tim Goldring told BT he believes the complaints and the resulting CAD probe are a result of ‘people (being) frightened of what they don’t understand’ – that is, the complex business of investing in land overseas.

A case in point is a complaint brought up by an investor at Speakers’ Corner – who told Channel NewsAsia he had invested $180,000 in eight parcels of land slated for housing development in the UK, only to find out the land had been designated ‘green belt . . . (which) is basically conservation land where the prospect of development is zero or maybe 5 per cent’.

According to Mr Goldring, that belief is completely untrue. ‘Green belt land is being built on every year in the UK – you just have to adhere to certain guidelines for development (such as, maintaining a certain degree of open space),’ he said. ‘If you check the UK land use statistics, you’ll see there’s development on green belt every year. Even Prince Charles has plans to build on green belt.

‘And in this particular example, the eight parcels of land have been designated as brownfield land (which is previously used land that can be redeveloped) by the local council.’

Mr Goldring said that while he believes CAD is duty bound to investigate complaints, he has found the small number of complaints he has encountered have arisen from competitors or from people who do not understand the intricacies of UK land laws. ‘And frivolous complaints could waste a lot of time for everyone,’ he said.

Profitable Plots’ group operations director John Nordmann believes some of the unhappiness might stem from the state of the economy as a whole.

‘In the past couple of years, we have paid out in excess of $50 million to our investors,’ he said. ‘And we have done 14,000 transactions since 2004. We have never lost any money for any of our clients (a statement reiterated in bold on the company’s website), even during these tough times. A handful of people are unhappy, but given the economic situation, I guess they’d be unhappy.

But as a testament to our business, I can tell you that the bulk of our customers keep coming back – 70 to 75 per cent of our business is repeat business.’

Incidentally, I dug out an old Guardian article in which Profitable Plots was accused of similar scammery, to which the PP rep, a Mr Dan Strumos, replied (and I quote):

“These accusations are false. Our headquarters are in Singapore and that would be the last place on earth for corporate shenanigans because the penalty for it is death.”

Excuse me while I try to clean out the milk from my nostrils.

Archive: Collection of useful items on Profitable Plots / Profitable Group scam

So that all the surfing will not go to waste, here are a collection of useful items linked to the Profitable Plots scam:

First, the sales pitch:


Then, the reality:

From CNA “Profitable Plots Investors hold protest at Speakers’ Corner”

Some investors of Singapore-based investment firm Profitable Plots took to the Speakers’ Corner on Saturday afternoon to protest against the company. A petition was also passed around, asking the authorities to step in. Profitable Plots is on the Monetary Authority of Singapore’s Investor Alert List.

The investors claim they are owed between a few thousand dollars and up to S$200,000. They had invested in land in the United Kingdom and the Philippines. One investor said he invested S$180,000 in eight parcels of land slated for housing development. But he said it was later revealed that the land had been designated as “green belts”. He said: “Nothing was said about green belt. It had no clue that green belt land are basically conservation land where the prospect of development is zero or maybe five per cent.”

From Todayonline “Profitable Plots investor sues to get her $31,500 back

A writ of summons has been issued against Singapore-based investment firm Profitable Plots – a division of the Profitable Group – by an investor who failed to get her money back, a sum amounting to US$22,500 ($31,500). The investor, who only wanted to be known as Ms Tan, told MediaCorp that the lawsuit was filed against the company in April after it delayed payment several times. The 39-year-old finance manager had invested in a fuel product called Boron in March last year. The company promised to return the capital with 12.5 per cent profit after six months.

In August, one month before the maturity date, Ms Tan decided to withdraw her investment but was told that she could only get her money back in October. Another investor, Mr Bobby Tan – who had invested $3,000 in the same product – told MediaCorp that payment has been due to him for more than six months. Mr Tan said he filed a police report earlier this year.

Last Monday, the company – which has been placed on the Monetary Authority of Singapore’s Investor Alert List – saw a dozen investors marching into its office to demand the return of a total of $700,000.

In a response to investors, which was forwarded to the press last week, Mr John Nordmann, Profitable Group’s group operations director, blasted the group for their “thuggish” and “criminal” behaviour. (ed: hilarious) In the letter, he told them: “You are not within your rights to take vigilante action against an innocent (ed: ROTFLMAO) third party for that breach.”

From Todayonline “Investors call for regulation of land banking”

Having failed to get their dues back from Singapore-based investment firm Profitable Plots and left to fend for themselves, a group of investors is now calling for better regulation of land banking here.

Unable to get back a sum totalling more than $2 million, they have not been able to get help from any regulatory body as land banking is not regulated in Singapore.

In an advisory yesterday, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) said it does not regulate land banking, as it involves investors acquiring direct interests in real estate, rather than securities related to real estate.

Then, from a letter to the Guardian in “Capital Letters”:

A company called Profitable Group is offering UK land for sale here in Singapore on TV adverts. The deal is that you buy land without planning permission – they are selling this in Colchester and Hounslow – and wait a little while until its gets the local authority go-ahead when it will become very valuable. As it is very hard to find out information here, can you tell me what you know about Profitable?
CC, Singapore

This is landbanking – a get-rich-quick scheme that has never delivered except for the promoters, who can multiply their investment in land many times over – £10,000 an acre agricultural land is sold for £100,000 by landbankers.

Profitable’s Colchester land is protected by a covenant preventing resale at a profit, so planning gains would be difficult – and currently house demand is so low that builders have an over-supply of both homes and land.

Profitable also claims interests in sport and recruitment. Former Scottish footballer Kenny Dalglish is listed as an executive on its sporting side.

The main board of this Singapore-based company also includes Tim Goldring, John Nordmann, James Hodgson and Nigel Blanchard, who were also directors of UK-based Profitable Plot Company. This went into liquidation last year after failing to produce accounts and, after three years of landbanking, sales in the UK did not produce the big gains promised.

Which led to MAS listing The Profitable Group on it’s Consumer Watch List (under “T”)

And of course, the inevitable “victims’ site” created by a group of poor saps who are trying to recover from their inability to see beyond footballing greats like Bryan Robson. Probably Brazilian fans, no doubt.