Upgrade to ChromeUpgrade to FirefoxUpgrade to Internet ExplorerUpgrade to Safari

Truffle farm investment scam – could you bring a claim?

Unwitting victims of a major scam which tricked people into investing in non-existent truffle farms are being urged to take legal advice to assess their position and see what their options are.

Five connected companies have now been wound up by the High Court amid reports by the Insolvency Service that more than 100 investors have been cheated out of their savings, totalling close to £9 million and potentially rising.

Savers contacted

Investors were initially contacted after filling in an online inquiry form.

Savers thought they were putting their money into oak and hazel tree saplings inoculated with truffle spores and planted in Spain and South Africa. They were told that the highly valuable truffles would then be harvested on a commercial scale and the profits returned to them.

But the Insolvency Service discovered that no cultivation or harvesting ever took place. What’s more, investors paid between £750 and £995 per sapling when identical saplings were sold to the public by other companies at between £7.95 and £9.95.

What companies are involved?

The five connected companies wound up after the four day trial were:

  • Westcountrytruffles Limited;
  • Truffle Sales Limited;
  • Viceroy Jones New Tech Limited;
  • Viceroy Jones Overseas PCC Limited;
  • Credit Free Limited.

Cheryl Lambert, the Insolvency Service’s Chief Investigator, said: “The companies and those behind them have shown no remorse in their calculated plan to scam investors of their pension pots.

“Although the Insolvency Service investigation was hampered by a lack of cooperation, the investigation pieced together the numerous layers in which the scam was wrapped.

“We take the matter of unregulated pension liberation assessment schemes very seriously and will take action to stop any such schemes who have acted unscrupulously.”

What exactly happened?

The High Court heard that Viceroy Jones New Tech used a network of unregulated financial advisory firms to target people who had access to their pension savings.

These advisors had close working relationships with George Frost, the common director of Viceroy Jones New Tech, Viceroy Jones Overseas PCC and Westcountrytruffles, who convinced people to transfer their savings into Small Self Administered Schemes run by Viceroy Jones New Tech and Viceroy Jones Overseas PCC in the Seychelles.

A total of £9 million of investments remain unexplained. Significant commissions were paid to the unregulated advisers, Truffle Sales, as well as George Frost and his brother, Brian, a former director of Westcountrytruffles.

The last company shut down by the courts, Credit Free Ltd, had not actively participated in the truffle scam but had received funds raised in the scheme and another scheme operated by George Frost and Viceroy Jones Ltd.

Using these funds, Credit Free Ltd paid more than £1.8 million over five years to George Frost and former director, Jeffrey Hawes.

What next?

Regulated financial advisors have a duty to consider where money will be invested when advising on the release of money held in a regulated pension.

We are looking into whether regulated financial advisers who facilitated the liberation of regulated pension funds can be held liable for the losses their clients subsequently sustained.

If you have been a victim of this scam, and regulated financial advisers helped you release money from a regulated UK investment or pension, we may be able to help you bring a claim.

For further information and a no obligation discussion, please contact Wards Solicitors’ Partner James Taylor, a specialist lawyer dealing with Financial Services Disputes

Get in Touch

Request a call back

If you’d prefer us to call you back, just use the form below to give us your number and the best time to call. It would also be useful if you could give us some idea of what you’d like to discuss.

Close

UPDATE August 2020

Wards Solicitors is open and our teams continue to work on existing cases and take on new business and clients.

From early August, we are pleased to announce that we will slowly be starting to re-open some of our branches to clients, but all appointments must be pre-booked.

Availability for face-to- face meetings in branches will be limited, and remote contact with teams – via phone, email or video call – is preferred wherever possible.  Our prime concern remains the safety of our clients and our staff.

Please note that all visitors to our offices must, by law, wear a face covering.

We cannot accept drop-in appointments.

How to get in touch:

  • Please email or telephone your usual lawyer or team, or
  • Please telephone the branch most convenient to you between 9am and 5:30pm, or email info@wards.uk.com at any time and we will respond to you as soon as possible.

We look forward to hearing from you.  A list of our 11 branches is available here.

Thank you.

Wards Solicitors LLP