Two finance companies have been wound up in the public interest after misleading people into investing a total of at least £3 million in an unprotected bond scheme.

Satchi Holdings PLC promised safe investments in asset-backed loan notes paying up to 9% interest, but investors received minimal interest payments, no return of their investments and risked their life savings.

Satchi Holdings PLC and Hartreel Ltd were wound up at the High Court of Justice on 30th January following an investigation by the Insolvency Service which uncovered the fraud. The Official Receiver was appointed as liquidator of the companies.

Satchi Holdings PLC, registered in Mayfair, London, was run by brother and sister Michael Haston and Jennifer McQueen. Hartreel Ltd, registered in Bridgend, Wales, was run by Haston, once described as a ‘wonderkid’ investor based in Edinburgh. 

In 2020 Haston was reported by the BBC and other outlets as having invested £2m in a government-backed spaceport in ­Shetland through another of his ventures, Leonne International. The Financial Conduct Authority had previously issued a warning to investors about Leonne.

Haston – who also uses the name McQueen – was also facing fraud charges at the time, which have since been ­discontinued by prosecutors. Shetland Space Port CEO Frank Strang subsequently cut all ties with Haston and repaid his loans.

In 2002 The Scotsman reported that a new venture, Haston Economics, promised to empower business owners to unlock the secret to raising capital – calling it a ‘game-changer’.

Investors in Satchi Holdings PLC were told that their investments were secure due to Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) protection. They were also told that Satchi Holdings was backed with assets of £34m.

In November 2021, Hartreel Ltd bought Satchi Holdings PLC’s assets and in December 2021 they informed investors that the company would be repaying all investors early. However the last interest payments investors received were between April 2020 and January 2022.

An investigation by the Insolvency Service, which can investigate complaints about corporate abuse by live companies, discovered that Satchi Holdings had lent money to four companies associated with Haston, and therefore the transactions were not conducted at arm’s length due to either his directorship or his involvement in both loaning and receiving the funds.

Only £200,000 was loaned legitimately, and that money is unrecoverable as Satchi Holdings failed to fully honour the contract.

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Investigators discovered that investments were not backed by FSCS protection and there was no evidence that any security had been given for the money that was loaned.

The pair had also failed to appoint a company secretary for Satchi Holdings, and failed to deliver up business records – both breaches of company law.

Due to Haston and McQueen’s failure to cooperate, investigators were unable to identify the total amount that members of the public had invested, and could find no evidence of the £34m assets that investors were told Satchi Holdings owned.

“Satchi Holdings PLC took money from members of the public who invested in good faith, believing that their money was properly protected,” said Mark George, chief investigator at the Insolvency Service.

“Both companies showed utter disregard for their financial accountability and blatantly misled investors, many of whom handed over life savings or pensions.

“Removing these rogue companies will protect the public from further harm.”

Haston is subject to a 10-year ban from running a business, from August 2023, following previous misconduct while running another business, Leonreed Ltd.

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