R.C. writes: In 2015, Perane & Co contacted my parents to say that a family member passed away without leaving a will and my mum was a possible beneficiary of this intestacy.
A form was signed, allowing the firm to investigate further. Last year, I advised Perane that my parents had died and last August they confirmed that I was now the sole beneficiary.
They gave me papers that included a letter from a government department, showing that the estate had been paid over to Perane in 2016. After a series of excuses about Perane’s failure to transfer the funds, I am now unable to contact them.
Detectives: Perane & Co track down relatives who are beneficiaries
Tony replies: Perane & Co Limited, based in Wymondham in Norfolk, describes itself and its staff as ‘inheritance recovery specialists, working to identify and trace missing beneficiaries and next of kin to unclaimed estates’. It adds: ‘We operate a wide network of experienced genealogy researchers across the UK, including Scotland. They research family trees and other data records to find out if there are any descendants entitled to inheritance money.’
In short, they are inheritance detectives, starting with public records of unclaimed estates and then tracking down relatives who may not know that under intestacy rules, they are the beneficiaries.
The first clue you had that things might not be going smoothly was when you found that in September 2016, the Treasury Solicitor’s office had written to Perane & Co, handing over more than £4,900 which would otherwise have gone to the Crown, following the death of your mother’s aunt.
After legal costs and Perane’s 25 per cent fee, there was £3,413 left. Perane boss Bruce Cane has told me that there was a hold-up when he found the aunt had in fact had two children who might have been first in line to inherit, but their claim was erased when it was found they had been adopted.
The next delay came in December 2017, when your father died, and then two months later when you also lost your mother. This left you as the beneficiary. This is where the more serious delay began.
Shake-up: Perane boss Bruce Cane
The company is still at the same offices in Wymondham, according to Bruce Cane, but he could not explain why you had been unable to make contact. What is clear though, is that Perane ran into trouble. Cane told me: ‘Perane & Co Ltd was involved with a group of companies and is now owed a significant sum which is being repaid and in turn leaves myself as the largest creditor.’ There had, he explained, been the sudden departure of the company’s finance director and a complete restructure of the business.
The 2018 accounts for the company show that it was owed £436,792, but at the same time the company itself owed £991,799. There is no explanation to show why this should have delayed payment of your inheritance, except that Cane has told me that the restructuring ‘revealed a large number of irregular transactions’ which meant that payments going back several years had to be checked.
Cane has assured me that beneficiaries’ funds are ring-fenced from company assets, adding: ‘We did encounter issues which were outside our control and once noticed we did everything in our power to rectify and put safeguards in place to ensure no further issues arise. We have apologised to Mr C and ensured he receives his entitlement without further delay.’ You have confirmed that your inheritance has now finally arrived safely.
Banned: Connaught director Nigel Walter
City watchdog blasted over £106m scandal
Two thousand victims who lost £106 million in an investment scandal that should never have been allowed to happen have attacked City regulator the Financial Conduct Authority over its ‘regulatory failures’.
The Connaught Income Fund Series One scheme collapsed in 2012. The FCA has now appointed outside barrister Raj Parker to investigate its own conduct and to highlight any failings in the way the watchdog body supervised the investment firm’s marketing and management.
One question which is certain to be considered is the role of Connaught Asset Management director Nigel Walter. In 2014, investigators from the Insolvency Service found that Connaught investors’ cash had been lent to a separate company, Tiuta International, which in turn used it to offer bridging loans to home buyers and businesses.
Some of those loans were never repaid, and in many cases, when Tiuta was repaid by its borrowers, Connaught failed to reclaim the cash.
Walter was banned from acting as a company director for nine years, but he should already have been on the FCA’s radar for operating a land banking scam. UK Land Investment (UKLI) raked in £70 million from 4,500 investors who were persuaded to buy house-size plots of land with the tale that they would rocket in value when planning permission was granted for housing projects. No development ever took place though and almost all the money was lost.
In 2003, I warned in The Mail on Sunday that UKLI’s scheme was based on false claims, reporting that ‘all investors are likely to get for their money is some very expensive grass’. But the watchdog allowed the scheme to run on for a further five years.
After it crashed, the Insolvency Service found that between April 2006 and March 2007, Walter ‘failed to act in the interest of UKLI by allowing UKLI to advance £5.48 million to third parties with no form of security in place’. Some of the businesses receiving handouts had no trading history and no assets, but were charged no interest for the first year and were told they need not repay any capital for 16 years.
The Financial Services Authority (the previous name of the FCA) was aware that UKLI was operating an unauthorised – and illegal – investment scheme, but took no legal action until 2008 when it applied to the High Court to have the company wound up.
No prosecutions were brought and investors lost funds. Meanwhile, company records show that Walter continued as a director of Connaught until 2009.