Runaway criminal sentenced to seven and a half years for role in land banking fraud

The fifth man involved in a land banking scam where innocent victims were conned out of over £35 million has been sentenced to seven and a half years in prison and banned from being a company director for 15 years at Blackfriars Crown Court today. James Maynard is the final defendant to be sentenced in this case after fleeing the country before the original trial took place in March 2013.

Mr Maynard was apprehended at Gatwick Airport on 28 August 2018 and later pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud contrary to common law at Southwark Crown Court on 26October 2018. The case was led by Tower Hamlets Trading Standards and supported by the National Trading Standards Tri Regional Investigation Team and Metropolitan Police.

James Maynard, alongside previously convicted Daniel Webster, Stephen Allen, Steven Percival and Christopher Demetriou, conspired to defraud investors from a business based in Canary Wharf between 1 January 2005 and 31 August 2010. Operating through companies including Countrywide Land Holdings Limited, Countrywide Land Holdings, and Regional Land, the men duped customers into buying plots of land which they claimed would shoot up in value once planning permission for development had been secured. The scammers even claimed the land would be used for the 2012 Olympics.

In reality, the plots of land were worth nothing, or significantly less than investors had been led to believe, forming part of the greenbelt or conservation areas. Land purchased by James Maynard at West Mailing in Kent was bought for £30,000 and then divided into plots worth just under £400, but sold for around £10,000. Over 400 investors were duped into buying plots of land, parting with over £35 million in total.

The case was referred to Tower Hamlets Trading Standards in the summer of 2010 following a number of complaints received about the businesses registered to the defendants. The first four defendants were sentenced to a total of 26 years and 10 months in prison after being found guilty of conspiracy to defraud, contrary to common law. Mr Maynard is believed to have been residing in Northern Cyprus since the original trial, when a warrant was issued for his arrest.

In describing the “grotesque merciless fraud”, His Honour Judge Beddoe, the original trial judge in 2013, said Mr Maynard “made up its wicked heart”. He stated that “investors were contemptible prey to be chewed up and contemptuously spat out” and “many have been ruined or close to ruin”. Today’s sentencing closes the case against a scam which began operating in 2005.

Lord Toby Harris, Chair of National Trading Standards, said:

“Today’s sentencing of this runaway fraudster is an excellent result, testament to the persistence and hard work of Tower Hamlets Trading Standards and the National Trading Standards Tri Regional Investigation Team. The teams work tirelessly to protect vulnerable consumers against this sort of merciless fraud.

“I would like to remind everyone, especially victims, that time is no barrier in bringing criminals to justice.”

John Biggs, Mayor of Tower Hamlets, said:

"This verdict sends out a clear message that we will not relent in our efforts to bring criminals to justice, no matter how long it may take.

“This was one of the largest fraud cases brought before the courts by any local authority, following a long investigation by our trading standards team and the police.

“I hope today’s sentencing and the closure of this case brings some consolation to the victims of such a callous crime.”

Notes to Editors


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Notes to editors

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