The Dolphin Trust, now German Property Group GmbH
The German Property Group (GPG) – formerly Dolphin Trust and Dolphin Capital GmbH – is an unregulated property investment scheme, specialising in the purchase of listed German buildings and refurbishing them into luxury apartments.
Attractive returns promised for investors
Founded by Charles Smethurst in 2008, GPG is believed to have attracted up to £900 million of investment from all over the world, including the UK, Ireland and the Far East through a combination of pension funds through Self-Invested Personal Pensions (SIPPs), Small Self-Administered Schemes (SSASs), hedge funds and cash from private investors.
The returns promised to investors by GPG were highly attractive. For example, loan notes typically offered fixed returns of between 10% and 12% over 2 and 5 year terms, payable either as income or as a growth option.
Early investors were repaid precisely as promised, prompting some to re-invest. It’s only in recent years that cracks have started to show with the scheme.
Relying on generous tax breaks from the German government, bond holders are said to be given a first charge each property via a trust mechanism. Worryingly, it may be the case that as many as four securities have been granted on just one development, in obvious contravention of how GPC’s bonds were sold and marketed.
What is unclear is how much of the money is physically secured, how these assets have been valued and by whom. If the business was to collapse, then common practice dictates the assets would likely be sold for a fraction of “book” price.
BBC radio exposé
GPG was the subject of a You and Yours exposé on BBC radio 4 in May 2019. It showed that not all was well with the unregulated asset (UCIS) that had been widely sold through Self-Invested Personal Pensions (SIPPs) with providers such as Lifetime, Rowanmoor, Berkeley Burke, Guinness Mahon and Stadia Trustees, to name but a few.
If you currently have pension funds invested in GPG you may be concerned about your money, and rightly so. A substantial number of investors whose bonds matured this year are still waiting to receive their funds back and for others, their promised interest payments have failed to materialise.
GPG have claimed only a small percentage of bond holders are affected, laying blame on various issues like delays in planning holding up construction work. They allege only 10 of the 60 property investments they are currently involved with are delayed, and have promised for the remaining 50 everyone will get their money back on time.
However, GPG’s funding model remains extremely suspect – high commissions and promised double digit returns would logically see any business haemorrhage cash with even the slightest planning or construction delay. If each project was as profitable as they claim, why wouldn’t one of Germany’s biggest and apparently most respected developers pursue a more traditional – and sustainable – funding model?
What is also not known is why GPG have not published a set of annual accounts since 2014.
These may be speculative figures, but in order to repay maturing bonds plus ongoing interest payments it’s believed that GPG may have needed as much as £68 million to cover this year alone. Worryingly, the bill for 2020 could likely dwarf that figure.
Have you lost money on an overseas property investment?
If you invested money in an overseas property development scheme like GPG and have not received the returns you were promised, you may be entitled to compensation. The team at Beat the Banks can analyse your case to establish if you have a claim and support you through the claims process. Call us on 01382 200474 for a free, no-obligation chat with one of our advisors today.