Fears for investors as suspected pyramid scheme wound up

Thousands of Irish investors have been left counting the cost after the company behind Banners Broker, a suspected online pyramid scheme, was wound up owing millions.

Liquidators were appointed to Banners Broker yesterday following a hearing in the Isle of Man. The scheme had attracted investment from more than 12,000 Irish people and thousands more internationally. The court agreed with an uncontested application that Banners Broker International Ltd (BBIL) should be shut down. It came five months after BBIL withdrew support for its Irish office, redirected service calls to Belize and put heavy restrictions on the withdrawals people could make from their accounts.

The court in Douglas heard the company had $6m (€4.4m) in assets but it had nobody from its Canadian operators present.

“The company is currently in limbo. It has no registered office, nobody providing secretarial services, no representative who will appear and significant assets of $6m,” said Judge David Doyle.

The judge said under the Isle of Man’s Companies Act 1931 it was just and equitable for the company to be wound up.

He appointed joint liquidators. One, from local firm Mann Benham, was put forward by Targus Investments. Targus had previously provided BBIL’s Canadian principal, Chris Smith, with nominee services for BBIL in the Isle of Man.

The second appointee was London-based Paul Appleton, of David Rubin and Partners LLP.

Mr Appleton presented the court with claims from people whose money is still locked in BBIL’s complicated internet advertising packages.

A standard letter circulated among some investors asked the Isle of Man court to appoint Mr Appleton as joint liquidator. In it individual claimants set out how much they had put in and what they were owed.

“There are genuine concerns as to the manner in which the business has been operated by others.

“A full and thorough investigation into BBIL’s affairs is, therefore, required to determine the position and explore how best to secure and recover funds for the benefit of its creditors,” the letter said.

The effect on creditors and investors will become clearer over the coming days.

Under Isle of Man law, a committee of inspection will oversee the work of the liquidators. It is expected to take up to a month to establish the extent of BBIL’s remaining assets and debts.

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