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‘Investors’ paid up to £600,000 in fraud case
FOUR members of a North- East family have been arrested following an investigation into a multi-million-pound global fraud that has allegedly conned money out of hundreds of victims – most of them elderly people.
Durham Police swooped on houses and business premises in Spennymoor earlier this month, seizing documents and detaining a 43-year-old man and three women aged 22, 44 and 75.
The operation, made public yesterday, followed the arrest in New Zealand of a 57-yearold man, originally from the Durham City area, who is suspected of being the mastermind behind the fraud. He is expected to stand trial in Auckland in October.
A fifth member of the Spennymoor family, who is believed to be somewhere in Africa, has yet to be traced by police.
Detectives mounted a fraud and money laundering investigation in relation to what is suspected to be a high-yield investment scam after being alerted by the Serious Fraud Office in New Zealand in February.
They are now appealing for potential victims to contact them.
Acting Detective Sergeant Dave Sampson said that since 2001, about 350 individuals had been encouraged to send money via bank transfers, cash, cheque and Western Union in the false belief that the money would be invested in numerous schemes.
These schemes have varied from companies to commodities and trusts. Company names known to have been used are Kommnett and Harmony Holdings.
Clients have allegedly been duped into “investing” in commodities such as gold, diamonds and water purification.
Investors have also been asked to send cash to cover the cost of travel expenses, offices and other bills claimed to be connected to the scheme.
The sums involved range from small amounts to up to £600,000.
While the fraud is believed to have been orchestrated abroad, the money is alleged to have been laundered through bank accounts of people in the Durham City area.
Acting Det Sgt Sampson said: “The people who have signed up to these schemes are being told they will be repaid 20 to 25 times the loan.
“They are being promised returns that sound too good to be true. They are not receiving the big investment returns promised, nor are they getting back the high interest loans they have provided.
“We believe that over the years the people operating these scams have put pressure on individuals not to report their concerns to authorities or seek advice from solicitors.
“They have told investors the matter is confidential and any breach of this confidentiality would result in a loss for themselves and possibly all involved.
“The investors have signed up to a scam and the funds invested will never be returned.
“We would like to hear from people who have signed up to these schemes and discuss with them individually their concerns and also discuss further detail of the police investigation.
All contact will be dealt with confidentially.
“We would recommend that they send no more money and when considering whether to invest money people should bear in mind that if a scheme sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
The four Spennymoor family members have been bailed pending further inquiries.
Anyone who fears they may have been involved a financial scam can go to actionfraud.police.uk, call 0300-123-2040 or Crimestoppers on 0800-555- 111.
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