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Aston Darby, which offered investment in car parking spaces paying 11% per year, has been shut down by the Insolvency Service after winding up petitions were presented in June. Reviews on Google allege the company had been defaulting on “guaranteed” interest payments as early as 2018.

According to the Insolvency Service, Aston Darby operated as a Ponzi scheme by paying off investors with new investors’ money rather than revenue from its car parks.

Investigators, however, established that these guaranteed returns were paid to investors from the original investments rather than income generated by the car parks.

Aston Darby also misled investors into investing in car parks that it didn’t even own yet, and on which it didn’t have planning permission.

Half of investors’ funds disappeared in commission in other charges.

The companies made misleading claims in their sales brochures and marketing materials. Documents claimed that the sites were already generating yields of 8% and failed to make clear that the companies did not own the sites when initial sales were made.

Investors were also misled into believing that planning permission had been granted for the Lode Hill site and that their funds would be specifically used to buy a parking space. However, 50% of their investments were used to fund commission and other charges by the companies and no development activity has been undertaken to convert the Lode Hill site into a ‘state of the art’ car park that investors were led to expect.

Two companies, Aston Darby Group Limited and Drake Estates Property Company Limited, have been wound up after taking £11.5 million and £14.3 million from investors respectively. The Chief Investigator for the Insolvency Service stated:

These two companies unscrupulously secured millions of pounds worth of investments from members of the public using misleading sales tactics.

The court rightly recognised the potential damage done to investors by Aston Darby Group Limited and Drake Estates Property Company Limited selling a flawed business model and has acted swiftly to shut the companies down.

In May 2020 Aston Darby had a novel idea to save its collapsed scheme; start a change.org petition.

TAKE ACTION NOW!! Your Investment is at risk due to the continued disruptive influence of the UK Government, and in particular [personal name removed – Brev] of the Government’s Insolvency Service.

According to the petition, action by the Insolvency Service prevented at least £4 million of further investor losses.

To date, simply by writing to these companies, [removed] has lost Aston Darby 4 bank accounts, 3 Legal teams, 1 company accountancy firm and over £4m in lost sales, over 160 spaces, which has impacted on the timescales of the development and led to increased costs.

Aston Darby’s attempt to rewrite the collapse of its scheme as a vendetta from a rogue agent at the Insolvency Service does not change the fact that there is no evidence that Aston Darby ever generated sufficient revenue from its car parks to pay investors returns of 11% per year, while spending 50% of investors’ money on commission and other charges, on top of the costs of running a car park.

The petition was deleted after Aston Darby received a “legal letter” from the Insolvency Service. Prior to being deleted it had garnered a grand total of 123 signatures. How many of these signatures were from investors duped by the old “Everything would have been fine if the administrators hadn’t shut us down” cliché, and how many were Aston Darby personnel, is unknown.

I reviewed Aston Darby’s scheme in January 2018 and noted that, contrary to Aston Darby’s claims to be “low risk” and “guaranteed”, the investment was inherently high risk.

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