TONY HETHERINGTON: Crooked land boss jailed for 'buy-to-let' contempt 

Tony Hetherington is Financial Mail on Sunday’s ace investigator, fighting readers corners, revealing the truth that lies behind closed doors and winning victories for those who have been left out-of-pocket. Find out how to contact him below.

A trickster who operated a huge international land scam has been jailed for six months for contempt of court. This is after diverting buy-to-let rents to his wife, in breach of court orders freezing his assets so his victims could be repaid losses of more than £15million.

Robert McKendrick, 59, of Alderley Edge in Cheshire, was behind Agri Capital. From 2009 onwards, the company offered investments in parcels of land in Sierra Leone which, it claimed, would be used to grow rice. 

Bankrupt: Robert McKendrick diverted buy-to-let rents to his wife

Advertisements promised 50 per cent capital growth in the first year, an estimated 15 per cent annual income from harvests, and all with a full money-back guarantee.

I warned in 2010 that the scheme was not authorised by the then City watchdog, the Financial Services Authority. 



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I asked McKendrick who would honour the guarantee if no rice was actually harvested. His reply was: ‘Agri Capital underwrites this.’ So, if Agri Capital itself got into difficulties, investors would have little chance of recovering their money.

Three years later, in 2013, the renamed City watchdog, the Financial Conduct Authority, began legal action after deciding the scheme was unlawfully promoted and operated without its permission. A court ruled McKendrick had misled investors, and it ordered a freeze of his assets.

McKendrick hit the headlines again in 2016 when his wife and daughter were attacked and their home ransacked by a gang organised by his Russian former lover, Karine Solloway. 

She had lent McKendrick more than £1million and had not been repaid. In 2017, Solloway was jailed for ten years. Three men who carried out the robbery were also jailed.

Last year, the regulator resumed its legal action. McKendrick was ordered to reveal all his assets, and he was barred from disposing of them. He was told he would have to pay the FCA so it could refund his investors. 

He has since been declared bankrupt, but in breach of court orders he secretly appointed his wife to manage dozens of properties he owns. This allowed her to pocket the rents and draw highly inflated management fees.

Mark Steward, director of enforcement at the FCA, said: ‘Mr McKendrick misled investors and then, in contempt of court, failed to comply with court orders requiring him to properly account for the losses.’

The regulator is now taking proceedings to enforce court judgments and distribute the proceeds to McKendrick’s victims.

My daughter’s £50 went to wrong home 

J.H. writes: I transferred £50 to my daughter’s account at Barclays. I then found the account had been closed, but the £50 was not returned. My own bank, Santander, says the transfer had gone through. Barclays will not speak to me.

You gave me the sort code and account number that received the £50, but I traced this to a housing association, not your daughter. Quite rightly, Barclays could not discuss the account with you because that would breach the privacy of its customer.

It turns out that a few years ago you made a payment to the housing association on behalf of your daughter, and you confused this with her own account details. The housing association is now in touch with your daughter to make sure she gets the £50.

If you believe you are the victim of financial wrongdoing, write to Tony Hetherington at Financial Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TS or email [email protected] Because of the high volume of enquiries, personal replies cannot be given. Please send only copies of original documents, which we regret cannot be returned.