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Hundreds of British investors were tricked into buying worthless shares in a £60m scam, a court has heard.
Three businessmen appeared at Southwark Crown Court charged with conspiracy to defraud after allegedly operating a "boiler room" scam from an office in Madrid.
Jeffrey Revell-Reade, 49, allegedly organised the operation, in which salespeople used aggressive techniques to trade worthless shares over the telephone.
The court was told Anthony May, 58, helped run the scam and controlled its proceeds while solicitor John Manning, 65, was allegedly recruited with the purpose of provide a "veneer of respectability".
Prosecutor Stuart Trimmer QC told the court that a team of salesmen would use hard selling techniques to trick British investors into parting with their cash.
In September 2007, the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) launched an investigation into a set of share brokerage companies based in Spain between 2003 and 2007.
Shares were allegedly sold in the companies, which had no actual or significant activity and had a falsely created market value.
It is alleged none of the companies obtained authorisation from the now Financial Services Authority or its Spanish equivalent, the Comision Nacional del Mercado de Valores.
What is a boiler room?
Boiler room scams usually come out of the blue, with fraudsters cold-calling investors after taking their phone number from publicly available shareholder lists. But the high-pressure sales tactics can also come by email, post, word of mouth or at a seminar.
These share scams are sometimes advertised in newspapers, magazines or online as genuine investment opportunities. They may even offer a free research report into a company in which you hold shares, or a free gift or discount on their dealing charges.
You will often be told that you need to make a quick decision or miss out on the deal.
The scammers might also try to sell you shares in a company you have never heard of, often because it does not exist. If you buy these shares, it is likely you will be left with a worthless investment.
Source: Financial Conduct Authority