Press release

8 companies involved in multi million pound international carbon credit and wine investment scam ordered to close

Eight interlinked companies involved in a scheme to dupe the public into investing in carbon benefit units or wine have been ordered into liquidation in the High Court following an investigation by the Insolvency Service.

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The investigation found that vulnerable individuals were being targeted and aggressively sold carbon benefit units (pre-verified carbon credits) in two overseas projects for investment and/or wine for investment by respective sales teams co-located at Airport House Business Centre in Croydon, Surrey, which operated in parallel under the supervision of a Jason Chalk.

The linked companies are London Carbon Neutral Ltd, Blakeney Bridge Wine Ltd, Blakeney Bridge Ltd, Savi IT Ltd and KMD Energy Solutions Ltd which were all based in Croydon; Earthsky Limited which was based in Chelmsford; and two British Virgin Island companies Consolidated Carbon Projects Limited and WK Investments Holdings Limited.

The companies were each ordered into liquidation following petitions presented by the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation & Skills to wind up the companies in the public interest.

The court was told how investors were cold called and high pressure sales techniques employed to persuade people to invest, without any mention of the investment risks involved.

Potential investors in carbon benefit units were assured that as London Carbon Neutral would be their green investment broker any investment would be very safe and that the units were ‘the holy grail for private investors’.

Potential investors in wine were similarly assured by Blakeney Bridge that any investment would be safe and by investing they would be picking the pockets of the biggest spenders in Russia and China as ‘the fact of the matter is, there’s money chasing this market and this money doesn’t care about expense’ and to start by investing ‘in barrels’ of wine.

The carbon benefit units sold to investors were in respect of two projects in Papua New Guinea: the April Salumei project and the Lake Murray project.

Investors were persuaded to pay £7.50 a unit in the April Salumei project and £3.75 a unit in the Lake Murray project, a mark up of up to 872% and 577% respectively of the price paid for the units by London Carbon Neutral. At least £3 million was raised from the sale of these units to the public for investment.

The wine sold to investors was marked up by up to 89% of the price paid by Blakeney Bridge. At least £1.5 million was raised from the sale of wine to the public for investment.

Investors were lied to and bullied into investing such that one vulnerable couple trusted London Carbon Neutral to look after all of their financial affairs, that all of their mail was directed to the company, which systematically deprived them of all their life savings of £1.2 million.

London Carbon Neutral asserted to potential investors that the company’s greatest asset was trust and that its values were ‘transparency, honesty and clarity’.

Blakeney Bridge similarly asserted that ‘trust can’t be wished for, it has to be earned, and the way to earn it is by giving our clients the best advice and getting them the best price deals’

Behind this callous boiler room activity was an overseas framework to supply the pre-verified carbon units from the two projects in Papua New Guinea that were sold to investors. Far from the “ski money” promised to the indigenous land owning tribes in PNG and funding to save the rain forest, investors’ money went to those behind the scheme and those selling it to vulnerable people whose lives have been ruined as a result. Investors sold wine fared no better.

Welcoming the court’s winding up decisions Chris Mayhew, Company Investigations Supervisor, said:

This was a significant boiler room operation involving companies based both here and abroad with sales companies here being located at Airport House Business Centre in Croydon and described to my investigators as the biggest telephone users at this address and easy to locate as their offices had ‘all the Porsches outside’. Investors not persuaded to buy carbon benefit units were sold wine instead and vice versa.

The Insolvency Service will not allow rogue companies to rip-off vulnerable and honest people and, working closely with other regulators, we will investigate abuses and close down companies if they are found to be operating or about to operate against the public interest.

Notes to Editors

London Carbon Neutral Ltd (CN: 07440978) was incorporated on 16 November 2010 in the name Savi IT Ltd (see below). On 20 June 2011 the name of the company was changed to London Carbon Investments Ltd and on 30 November 2011 the name of the company was changed to its present style. The registered office of the company from incorporation to 15 April 2011 was 145-157 St John Street, London, EC1V 4PW and thereafter to present date Airport House Business Centre, Purley Way, Croydon, Surrey, CRO OXZ.

The recorded directors of the company have been:

  • Phillip Stephen Watkins, also calling himself Lord Phillip Watkins (from 16 November 2010 to 1 July 2011, then re-appointed on 20 July 2011 to 20 November 2013, and once more re-appointed from 12 December 2013 to 14 May 2014)
  • Darren Mark Johnson (from 24 June 2011 to 20 July 2011)
  • Jason Chalk (from 28 June 2012 to 9 July 2012, then re-appointed on the same day to 7 May 2013)
  • Samantha Allan (from 30 July 2012 to 11 February 2013)
  • Richard Allan (from 28 June 2012 to 7 May 2013)

No secretary is shown to have been appointed. The company’s share capital is shown to be £1,000 divided into 1,000 ordinary shares of £1 each and held by Mr R Allan (999 shares) and Mr P S Watlins (1 share).

The company’s place of business was Airport House Business Centre, Purley Way, Croydon, Surrey, CRO OXZ and it operated a website www.lcneutral.co.uk

The grounds for winding up the company were that it has engaged in objectionable trading practices; made misleading and unfounded statements and failed to maintain and /or deliver up adequate accounting records.

Blakeney Bridge Wine Ltd (CN: 07664841) was incorporated on 10 June 2011 in the name London Wine Traders Ltd. The name of the company was changed to its present style on 6 October 2011. The registered office of the company throughout has been Airport House Business Centre, Purley Way, Croydon, Surrey, CRO OXZ.

The recorded directors of the company have been:

  • Philip Watkins also calling himself Lord Watkins (from 10 June 2011 to 19 June 2013)
  • Jason Chalk (from 4 January 2012 to 7 May 2013)
  • Richard Allan (from 8 May 2013 to present date)

No secretary is shown to have been appointed. The company’s share capital is shown to be £1,000 divided into 1,000 ordinary shares of £1 each and all held by Mr R Allan.

The company’s place of business was Airport House Business Centre, Purley Way, Croydon, Surrey, CRO OXZ and it operated the following websites:

  • www.blakeneybridge.co.uk
  • www.blakeneybridge.com
  • www.blakeneybridgewineuk.com
  • www.blakeneybridgewine.net

The grounds for winding up the company were that it has engaged in objectionable trading practices; made misleading and unfounded statements and failed to maintain and/or delliver up adequate accounting records.

Blakeney Bridge (CN: 07496293) was incorporated on 18 January 2011 in the name Knight Brook Estates Ltd. The name of the company was changed to its present style on 18 June 2013. The registered office of the company from incorporation to 5 October 2011 was 145-157 St John Street, London, EC1V 4PW and thereafter to present date Airport House Business Centre, Purley Way, Croydon, Surrey, CRO OXZ.

The recorded directors of the company have been:

  • Samantha Allan (from incorporation to present date)
  • Richard Allan (from 9 February 2012 to present date)

No secretary is shown to have been appointed. The company’s share capital is shown to be £2 divided into 2 ordinary shares of £1 each and held by Mrs S Allan (1 share) and Mr R Allan (1 share).

The company’s place of business was Airport House Business Centre, Purley Way, Croydon, Surrey, CRO OXZ.

The ground for winding up the company was the risk that if not wound up with Blakeney Bridge Wine Ltd the objectionable trading practices would otherwise be adopted and continued by the new company.

Savi IT Ltd (CN: 07606868) was incorporated on 18 April 2011 in the name London Carbon Investments Ltd. The company was the forerunner of London Carbon Neutral Limited (with whom it exchanged names on 20 June 2011 - see note 1 above). On 20 June 2011 the name of the company was changed to its present style. On 10 October 2011 the company applied for voluntary striking off and was dissolved on 7 February 2012. The registered office of the company throughout has been Airport House Business Centre, Purley Way, Croydon, Surrey, CRO OXY.

The sole recorded director of the company throughout has been Phillip Stephen Watkins who, according to the incorporation documents, was the sole shareholder with 1 ordinary £1 share.

No secretary is shown to have been appointed.

The company’s place of business was Airport House Business Centre, Purley Way, Croydon, Surrey, CRO OXY selling carbon credits from the Gansu Anxi wind farm project in China.

The grounds for restoring the company to the register and winding up were that it had engaged in objectionable trading practices; made misleading and unfounded statements and lacked transparency.

KMD Energy Solutions Ltd (CN: 07768131) was incorporated on 9 September 2011. The registered office of the company throughout has been Airport House Business Centre, Purley Way, Croydon, Surrey, CRO OXZ.

The sole recorded director of the company has been Kerstin Margaret Dalgleish (formerly Kyrsti Dalgleish) from incorporation to 8 March 2013. No successor is shown to have been appointed. No Company secretary is shown to have been appointed.

The company’s share capital is shown to be £1 comprising 1 ordinary share of £1 and shown to be held by Ms Dalgleish.

The company’s place of business was Airport House Business Centre, Purley Way, Croydon, Surrey, CRO OYZ and it operated the following websites:

  • www.kmdenergy.co.uk
  • www.kmdenergy.com

The grounds for winding up the company were that it has engaged in objectionable trading practices; lacked transparency and to prevent it from being used as a vehicle to continue the objectionable trading practices of London Carbon Neutral.

Earthsky Limited (CN: 04259784) was incorporated on 26 July 2001. The registered office of the company from incorporation to 13 August 2001 was 1 Mitchell Lane, Bristol, BS1 6BU; from 13 August 2001 to 8 February 2007 c/o Chiu & Benson, 47 Whitcomb Street, London, WC2H 7DH and from 8 February 2007 to present date Holly House, 220 New London Road, Chelmsford, Essex, CM2 9AE.

The recorded directors of the company have been:

  • Instant Companies Limited (from incorporation to 6 August 2001)
  • Clive Richard Martin (from 6 August 2001 to 7 September 2012)
  • Jeffrey Jacob Messias (from 12 November 2002 to 17 November 2006)
  • John Robert Wittey (from 13 June 2003 to 7 September 2012)
  • Graham Paul Taylor (from 17 November 2006 to present date)

The company secretary is shown to be Swift Incorporations Limited from incorporation to 6 August 2001; Jeffrey Jacob Messias from 6 August 2001 to 17 November 2006 and Graham Paul Taylor from 17 November 2006 to present date. The company’s share capital is shown to be £1,000 divided into 1,000 ordinary shares of £1 each and held by Mr J R Wittey (500 shares), Mr G P Taylor (250 shares) and Mr CR Martin (250 shares).

The company’s accounts filed at Companies House disclose that the company has achieved no turnover since its incorporation but nevertheless record that it has been involved in some form of significant business leading to it reportedly having cash at bank of some £17 million in 2004 increasing to some £535 million in 2006 and some £613.5 million in 2011. No explanation has been provided as to the activities giving rise to such cash balances nor a $1 billion trust agreement nor a $30 million bond.

The grounds for winding up the company are that its accounts filed at Companies House are false and misleading and it has failed to maintain, preserve and/or deliver up adequate accounting records and failed to fully co-operate with the investigation.

Consolidated Carbon Projects Limited (a company registered in the British Virgin Islands, CN: 1534063) was incorporated on 4 June 2009 and struck off the register on 1 November 2013 for non payment of its annual fee. The registered office of the company has been Akara Building, 24 De Castro Street, Wickam’s Cay 1, Road Town, Tortola, VG1110, British Virgin Islands.

The officers of the company have been:

  • Clive Richard Martin (from incorporation to 6 July 2011)
  • Michael Peter Setterfield (from 6 July 2011 to 26 September 2011)
  • Lee Charles Wiggins (from 6 July 2011 to 26 September 2011)
  • Marlborough Nominees Limited (from 26 September 2011 to 1 November 2013)
  • Marlborough Trust Company Ltd (from 26 September 2011 to 1 November 2013)

The company’s authorised share capital is 50,000 shares of US $ 1 each of which 100 shares were issued to WK Investment Holdings Limited (see below).

The company operated a website: www.consolidatedcarbonprojects.com

The ground for winding up the company was that it had acted with a lack of commercial probity.

WK Investments Holdings Limited (a company also registered in the British Virgin Islands, CN:646081) was incorporated on 11 March 2005 in the name Romany Management Limited. On 2 June 2011 the name of the company was changed to its present style. On 1 November 2012 the company was struck off the Register for non payment of its annual fee. The registered office of the company was Palm Grove House, PO Box 438, Road Town, Tortola, British Virgin Islands.

On 27 June 2008 the company created legal charges in favour of National Westminster Bank plc over 3 properties in Little Cranfield, Great Dunmow. Essex. On 6 June 2011 further charges over the same properties were created again in favour of the bank.

The officers of the company have been:

  • Clive Richard Martin (from incorporation to 6 July 2011)
  • Michael Peter Setterfield (from 6 July 2011 to 26 September 2011)
  • Lee Charles Wiggins (from 6 July 2011 to 26 September 2011)
  • Marlborough Nominees Limited (from 26 September 2011 to 1 November 2012)
  • Marlborough Trust Company Ltd (from 26 September 2011 to 1 November 2012)

The company’s authorised share capital was 50,000 shares of US $ 1 each of which 2 shares were issued and held by Marlborough Trust Company Limited (1 share) and Marlborough Nominees Limited (1 share).

The ground for winding up the company was that it had acted with a lack of commercial probity.

Escrow services for the carbon benefit unit scheme were carried out by Lorrells LLP (which resolved to be placed into voluntary liquidation on 9 September 2015 with a reported deficiency of £2,876,223), , Marriotts Associates Services LLP (which resolved to be placed into voluntary liquidation on 2 April 2015 with a reported deficiency of £350,196) and Born & Co (Compliance) Ltd.

Carbon Registry services were carried out by IFIT Fund Services (Cayman) Limited. The registry website is given as registry.ifit.net

The April Salumei project developer is shown to be Rainforest Project Management Limited. The contact given is a Stephen Hooper and the project website given as www.rainforestmanagementalliance.org and subsequently www.pacificforestalliance.org

The April Salumei project manager is given as ‘Earthsky’ and the contact shown is a Sean Lewis.

The Lake Murray project developer is also given as Rainforest Project Management Limited with Stephen Hooper once more given as the contact.

Carbon benefit units from the April Salumei project have also been marketed and sold to the public for investment by World Future Limited (CN: 07662439), which company was ordered into liquidation in the High Court on grounds of public interest on 6 March 2013. The recorded directors of World Future Limited were Hollie Emily Chapman (from 8 June 2011 to 19 September 2011); Edward George Lee (from 5 August 2011 to 31 October 2011); Julie Sellers (from 31 October 2011 to 1 April 2012) and James Ward (from 1 April 2012 to the date of liquidation).

Carbon benefit units from the April Salumei project have additionally been marketed and sold to the public by Industry RE Limited, which company was ordered into liquidation in the High Court on 19 August 2013. The sole recorded director of the company throughout was Ian James Hamilton.

By letter dated 2 November 2015 Marlborough Trust Company Limited based in Guernsey made various representations as to the position of Consolidated Carbon Projects Limited and WK Investments Holdings Limited and requested the petitions against those two companies be withdrawn by the Secretary of State. David Bates of Marlborough Trust was present at the hearing of the petitions. No responses to the petitions were received from the other six companies..

The petitions to wind up the eight companies were presented in the High Court on 26 May 2015 under the provisions of section 124A of the Insolvency Act 1986 following confidential enquiries carried out by Company Investigations under section 447 of the Companies Act 1985, as amended.

A carbon credit is a certificate or permit which represents the right to emit one tonne of carbon dioxide (CO2) and can be traded for money. The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has issued consumer information on carbon credit trading and what to consider before investing. The FCA has also published help for those most at risk of investment fraud. The concerns of the FCA regarding the lack of a secondary market are also reflected in guidance issued by HM Revenue and Customs in relation to carbon credits.

Company Investigations, part of the Insolvency Service, uses powers under the Companies Act 1985 to conduct confidential fact-finding investigations into the activities of live limited companies in the UK on behalf of the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS). Further information about live company investigations is available.

The Insolvency Service administers the insolvency regime, investigating all compulsory liquidations and individual insolvencies (bankruptcies) through the Official Receiver to establish why they became insolvent. It may also use powers under the Companies Act 1985 to conduct confidential fact-finding investigations into the activities of live limited companies in the UK. In addition, the agency authorises and regulates the insolvency profession, deals with disqualification of directors in corporate failures, assesses and pays statutory entitlement to redundancy payments when an employer cannot or will not pay employees, provides banking and investment services for bankruptcy and liquidation estate funds and advises ministers and other government departments on insolvency law and practice.

Further information about the work of the Insolvency Service, and how to complain about financial misconduct, is available.

By virtue of the winding up orders all public enquiries concerning the affairs of the company should be made to: The Official Receiver, Public Interest Unit , 4 Abbey Orchard Street, London, SW1P 2HT. Telephone: 0207 637 1110 Email: piu.or@insolvency.gsi.gov.uk.

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Published 27 November 2015