A former solicitor who made nearly £900,000 from a bogus land investment scheme is among eight convicted fraudsters who will be forced to pay back a combined £2.2 million.

The Central Criminal Court today ordered eight defendants pay £2,195,496. The order follows an investigation led by the Financial Conduct Authority.

The FCA’s investigation, Operation Cotton, targeted a collective investment scheme in which salesmen cold-called potential investors to sell them agricultural land that they had bought for minimal amounts and land they did not own.

More than £5 million was extracted from investors to buy land at a vastly inflated price on the false promise of a substantial profit that never materialised.

The scheme operated through three companies: Plott Investments (which changed its name to Plott UK), European Property Investments (UK) Ltd and Stirling Alexander Ltd.

The eight defendants are salesman Scott Crawley, Brendan Daley, Daniel Forsyth, Adam Hawkins, Ricky Mitchie, Ross Peters, Aaron Petrou and solicitor Dale Walker, who assisted with conveyancing. 

In 2015, the Gazette reported that Walker had pocketed nearly £900,000 for his role in the fraud and was sentenced to five and a half years in prison. He was convicted of possessing criminal property contrary to section 329 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, as well as aiding and abetting the carrying out of a regulated activity.

Walker was struck off the roll in September 2015. 

According to His Honour Judge Leonard QC, the sums confiscated will be paid as compensation to the victims of their crimes.

Mark Steward, executive director of enforcement and market oversight at the FCA, said: ‘The FCA will continue to pursue those engaged in financial crime, including advisers and other professionals who facilitate misconduct or who launder its proceeds.’