Alpha victims warned that time to make a claim is running out

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The Independent Online

This week's warning for investors to move quickly came from William Ellerton, of the solicitor Bevans, which acts for several investors and recently won compensation and costs of £600,000 for a married couple, the Seymours.

"The general rule is that an investor will have six years to bring a claim from the date he makes an investment reliant upon negligent advice," said Ellerton. "In the case of ICG, many people invested in 1999." Another Bevans client invested £1.9m, but his failure to act more quickly means he is now time-barred from claiming compensation for the loss of all but £100,000. About 200 investors lost large proportions of their savings through ICG's collapse.

In the Seymour case, independent financial adviser Caroline Ockwell & Co, of Swindon, was sued for failing to meet its duty of care to its clients in determining the investment was sound. In turn, Ockwell successfully sued the Zurich IFA Group - which supplied details of ICG's Alpha Fund to Ockwell and many other IFAs - for breaching its duty of care. Zurich was required to meet two-thirds of the costs of compensation bill.

Superficially, ICG's Alpha Fund looked attractive and was marketed by IFAs as a low-risk, high-return investment. But ICG was connected to a network of high-risk businesses with investments and locations in Russia, the Bahamas and Grenada.

The SFO is investigating claims that ICG moved funds between related companies to make it appear as if high returns were being achieved. The two men who set up ICG and the related Fraser Brook Partnership were Jared Brook and Lincoln Fraser, who were barred for three years from being company directors in 2002 for their role in the unrelated collapse of a Morecambe hotel business in 1995.

Zurich is not appealing against the decision in the Ockwell case, but it said this did not provide a precedent for other legal action. Zurich spokeswoman Debi Isaac added: "We have maintained it was information not promotion that we supplied and so it was up to the IFA and the client to decide whether to invest in that group."

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