A Croydon fraudster who was on the run for five years has finally been jailed.

James Maynard, 38, fled the country in 2013 after his part in a £35million land banking scam was discovered. He is believed to have been in Cyprus.

After returning to UK this summer undetected, he was eventually flagged up when attempting to leave the country and arrested.

His Honour Judge Beddoe, the original trial judge in 2013, said Mr Maynard “made up its wicked heart”. He stated that “investors were contemptible prey to be chewed up and contemptuously spat out” and “many have been ruined or close to ruin”.

He is the last of five men to be sentenced for the fraud, for which he received seven years.

Alongside previously convicted Daniel Webster, Stephen Allen, Steven Percival and Christopher Demetriou, Maynard conspired to defraud investors from a business based in Canary Wharf between January 2005 and August 2010.

Operating through companies including Countrywide Land Holdings Limited, Countrywide Land Holdings, and Regional Land, the men duped customers into buying plots of land which they claimed would shoot up in value once planning permission for development had been secured. The scammers even claimed the land would be used for the 2012 Olympics.

In reality, the plots of land were worth nothing, or significantly less than investors had been led to believe, forming part of the greenbelt or conservation areas.

Land purchased by Maynard at West Mailing in Kent was bought for £30,000, divided into plots worth just under £400, but sold for around £10,000. Over 400 investors were duped into buying plots of land, parting with over £35 million in total.

The case was referred to Tower Hamlets Trading Standards in the summer of 2010 following a number of complaints received about the businesses registered to the defendants. The first four defendants were sentenced to a total of 26 years and 10 months in prison after being found guilty of conspiracy to defraud, contrary to common law.

Lord Toby Harris, Chair of National Trading Standards, said: “Today’s sentencing of this runaway fraudster is an excellent result, testament to the persistence and hard work of Tower Hamlets Trading Standards and the National Trading Standards Tri Regional Investigation Team. The teams work tirelessly to protect vulnerable consumers against this sort of merciless fraud.

“I would like to remind everyone, especially victims, that time is no barrier in bringing criminals to justice.”