Tony Hetherington is the Financial Mail on Sunday’s star investigator, battling readers’ corners, revealing the truth behind closed doors and winning victories for those left penniless. Find out how to contact him below.
CB writes: I invested £5,000 in Cannadex loan bonds in 2020, with fixed interest of 11.75 per cent and repayment due in February 2022.
They have not refunded my money and the letters sent to the company remain unanswered.
I finally got in touch and they told me to apply to Cannadex’s financial team, which I did, but they still haven’t refunded me.
Tony Hetherington replies: Cannadex is a medical cannabis company and a few years ago it raised funds by issuing bonds. But for unexplained reasons, the link you have is not the link Cannadex intended.
Promise: Cannadex oil is used on the skin to treat conditions such as arthritis and inflammation.
To begin with, he told me that a financial advisor from Charles Hunt & Co, based in Berkeley Square, London, recommended the investment to him. There is no registered company and no company with this name is authorized by the Financial Conduct Authority.
This is important, but not crucial, since you had already lost a lot of legal protection.
You see, part of the bond application form says that you are a “sophisticated investor.” This sounds flattering, but the words have a very important meaning under FCA rules. They mean that he has been a director in the last two years of a company that turned over at least £1 million a year, or that in the same period he has made more than one investment in a company whose shares are not listed on the stock exchange.
You would also be considered sophisticated if you are a ‘business angel’, investing money in risky startups, or if you have recently worked as a professional fundraiser for small or medium-sized businesses. Simply put, the rules mean that you are either well off enough to risk losing every penny, or that you are experienced enough to understand the risks.
None of these things apply to you. You are 88 years old and it is clear from everything you have told me that you had no idea what you were doing buying loan bonds, which you seemed to have thought were similar to a fixed rate bank account. In fact, bonds like this are simply IOUs, not unlike an IOU that a friend gives you in the pub and asks you to borrow a few quid until payday; There is always the risk of not getting paid.
I contacted Cannadex boss Amit Kochhar, whose signature appears on his bond. He did not respond, but one of his colleagues, Stephen Scanlon, told me: ‘Investors who invested in Cannadex took out convertible loan notes. These loan notes would be converted into Cannadex shares. Investors have no right to get their money back, he explained. Instead, they receive shares.
I had to give him the exact words that appear on his certificate. It says: ‘Cannadex Limited promises to pay CB the sum of £5,000 together with annual interest of 11.75 per cent on the unpaid balance. This bond will mature and be payable on February 18, 2022.’ No conditions, no buts and no exchanges for shares.
Scanlon, who recently became director of Cannadex, re-investigated the records. While he insisted that the investment was advertised as involving conversion into shares, he agreed there was a “discrepancy” between this and the wording of the certificate. Cannadex has decided to make an exception and refund you, and you have just received your £5,000.
The huge gap between what Cannadex says it intended and the actual certificate it received remains completely inexplicable. And Cannadex declined to identify who acted as sales force for its 2020 fundraiser.
Has the address been hijacked?
Mrs. CM writes: We purchased our property in 2020 and the previous owners had lived there for many years. Since we moved, we have received letters from loan companies addressed to names we do not recognize.
A few months ago a company called Cool Poster Limited was set up at our address.
We’ve told Companies House, but is there any way to put our address on a watch list so that testing is needed when someone uses it?
Suspicious: Since moving, Ms CM has received letters from loan companies addressed to names she does not recognize.
Tony Hetherington replies: I’m afraid there is no central watch list. The closest is Cifas, the credit industry’s anti-fraud body, but its list covers individuals, not addresses.
Cool Poster was created in the name of a woman who told officials she lives in kyiv.
I contacted Companies House and the staff there changed the registered office address so the mail will now be sent to them in Cardiff.
We are watching you
Three weeks ago, I warned against dealing with the art investment company Marks Art Ltd. It advertised a series of glowing recommendations from people who had supposedly visited its gallery in London, but when I went to its address in the exclusive district of Kensington, I didn’t find any. sign of a gallery.
The owner of the company, Mark Smith, admitted that he only uses the address to send mail. There is a gallery, he claimed, but its actual location is secret to deter criminals.
Warning: Marks Art Ltd announced a series of glowing recommendations from people who had supposedly visited its gallery in London.
Review website Trustpilot removed 14 reviews it deemed fake and ordered Marks Art not to violate the site’s rules by claiming a false trust rating. Now Trustpilot has acted again, after reviews on a separate website run by Marks Art were found to be making similar dubious claims.
Trustpilot told me: “Our Investigations and Fraud team has identified and removed several additional reviews with suspicious patterns from both the marks-art.uk and marks-art.com profile pages.”
Trustpilot has issued a cease and desist order to Marks Art to stop manufacturing reviews and has placed a warning on the art dealer’s Trustpilot page, alerting consumers to the company’s misconduct.
If you believe you are a victim of financial irregularity, please write to Tony Hetherington at Financial Mail, 9 Derry Street, London W8 5HY or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Due to the large volume of inquiries, it is not possible to provide personal responses. Please only send copies of the original documents, which we regret cannot be returned.
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