by LAUREN CODLING
THE victim of a so-called “land-banking scheme” has said she “can finally move on”, after the businessman behind it lost his appeal in court last week.
Over a period of almost two decades, Baron Alexander Deschauer sold plots of lands to an estimated 2,700 individuals at an average price of £18,000. However, the land was in the green belt policy, which means it is a place of “natural beauty” and therefore cannot be built upon.
Plot holders claimed the scheme was unlawful as hundreds of people paid covenant charges for land which they are unable to build on. The fees, paid yearly, varied, but reportedly reached up to £300.
In a court ruling last September, the Canadian businessman was ordered to stop charging buyers for covenant fees. Deschauer appealed and his defeat in court last week means that buyers could look to claim back the charges they have already paid to his various companies.
Kusum Thanki is a member of the action group Land Banking Victims Association Ltd (LBVA), who brought the case to court. Thanki, who purchased a £24,000 plot in Buckinghamshire in 2002, said she and LBVA members were relieved by the verdict.
“I’m very pleased for the (LBVA) members in that we don’t have to pay covenant charges ever again,” Thanki told Eastern Eye. “I’m happy that we will not be passing this liability to our children and their children. Although there are some things that still need to be ironed out, I definitely feel that we can move on. The sword hanging over our head has finally been removed.”
Thanki is due to claim back £1,100 of covenant charge fees back from Deschauer’s company. Although she has been paying the fees since 2002, she is only able to claim back charges from six years ago due to the statute of limitations.
Thanki described her mixed feelings on the experience. Although she is happy with the verdict, she felt sad that members were “sucked into a blatant mis-selling of plots”. A vast majority – 90 per cent – of the LBVA members are from ethnic minorities, among them Indians, Sikhs, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Nigerians, Chinese and Gurkhas.
“A lot of members realise we should have done our homework,” she said. “But when you’re faced with very clever marketing, pressured marketing, you sometimes lose focus and get carried away with the flow.”
Despite the hardships of the case, Thanki said she is grateful to have made life-long friendships with other LBVA members. She said: “I’ve met some very nice people who, unfortunately, trusted people whom we shouldn’t have trusted.”
Thanki is now appealing for anyone who may be a victim of Deschauer’s scheme to come forward and make contact with the LBVA group. “If there are any other people who have bought plots from Baron’s companies, please get in touch with us and we will be able to guide them as to how to stop this and at least try to get back some of the money if not all,” she said.
It is unknown if Deschauer intends to appeal against the latest decision.