A BUSINESS that took £14million from investors for Brazilian developments that never happened has been shut down and faces a criminal probe.

The Green Planet investment companies, registered to an office in Southchurch Road, Southend, was actually “an investment black hole”, according to Insolvency Service investigators who have referred the case to specialist fraud investigators.

Three hundred people invested their life savings totaling £14million.

In the meantime, the companies have been forced into liquidation by High Court Registrar Nicholls in the “public interest” to stop them trading.

Set up by Brett Jolly, 52, of Wansfell Gardens, Southend, the group, with companies registered in the UK and Gibraltar, persuaded nearly 300 investors theywere dealing with a big UK-registered bank.

Salesmen used high-pressure tactics, including luring people who completed a survey to the Gherkin building in London with a free glass of Champagne to what turned out to be a sales seminar.

However, during the probe Mr Jolly admitted no building work ever started on properties at three sites in Natal, Brazil.

Chris Mayhew, company investigations supervisor at the Insolvency Service, said: “Green Planet Investment was a slick land investment scheme designed to make money only for those with the company and not the 300 investors who were persuaded by false and misleading statements to invest more than £14million into an investment black hole.”

The group recruited about 140 salesmen and cold callers, who got commissions of up to 60 per cent of the cash invested by persuading people to invest in the schemes called White Sands Country Club, White Sands Towers and Genipabu Beach Club.

Mr Mayhew added: “I would urge people to be cautious when contacted out of the blue by cold-calling investment sharks.”

If you invested in the company, e-mail jon.austin@nqe.com or call 01702 321152.