The High Court handed down disqualifications of 15 years against Lee John Thompson and Andrew Michael Spiteri on 30 November 2016. Earlier on 10 May 2016 Stephen Michael Leary had agreed to a disqualification undertaking of 14 years.
The men acted as directors of Worldwide Commodity Partners Limited (Worldwide) which sold voluntary emission reduction carbon credits (VERs) to members of the public as an investment. An Insolvency Service investigation uncovered that between July 2011 and November 2012, Worldwide sold VERs to members of the public who lost almost £3m. The VERs they were selling had no potential to show a return and Thompson, Spiteri and Leary knew, or should have known that this was the case.
Records revealed that Thompson, 47, lately of Canvey Island, was the registered director of the company. Spiteri, 36, of Tower Hill, and Leary, 33, of Finchley, while not formally appointed directors had day to day control of sales.
Thompspn and and Spiteri did not defend the court proceedings. There disqualifications begin on 21 December 2016 and mean that they cannot promote, manage, or be a director of a limited company until 2030. The disqualification undertaking given by Leary commenced on 10 May 2016.
Commenting on this case Anthony Hannon, Official Receiver in the Public Interest Unit, said:
This company made bold, exaggerated claims about the financial advantages of buying carbon credits, but the truth is, the advantage was all in the company’s favour. The lengthy disqualifications handed down show this kind of behaviour will not be tolerated by the Insolvency Service nor by the Court.
Notes to editors
Worldwide Commodity Partners Ltd (originally World Carbon Ltd) (Company Registration No: 07646597) was incorporated on 25 May 2011. Its trading address was at 46-48 East Smithfield, London E1W 1AW.
The petition to wind up the company was presented by the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (formerly Business, Innovation and Skills) in the public interest following an investigation conducted by Company Investigations (Live), another specialist unit within the Insolvency Service which uses powers under the Companies Act 1985 (as amended) to conduct confidential enquiries into the activities of live limited companies in the UK on behalf of the Secretary of State. The winding up order against Worldwide Commodity Partners Limited was made on 1 May 2014.
On 19 April 2016, the Secretary of State accepted a disqualification under taking from Stephen Michael Leary for a period of 14 years. The period of disqualification commenced on 10 May 2016.
On 26 April 2016, the Official Receiver issued disqualification proceedings against Lee John Thompson and Andrew Michael Spiteri in the High Court and on 30 November 2016 Registrar Derrett disqualified each for a period of 15 years. These disqualifications will commence on 21 December 2016.
The disqualifications follow an investigation by the Official Receiver at the Public Interest Unit, a specialist team of the Insolvency Service, whose involvement commenced with the winding up of the company in the public interest following an investigation by Company Investigations into the affairs of the company.
A disqualification order has the effect that without specific permission of a court, a person with a disqualification cannot:
- act as a director of a company
- take part, directly or indirectly, in the promotion, formation or management of a company or limited liability partnership
- be a receiver of a company’s property
Disqualification undertakings are the administrative equivalent of a disqualification order but do not involve court proceedings. Persons subject to a disqualification order are bound by a range of other restrictions.
The Insolvency Service, an executive agency sponsored by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), administers the insolvency regime, and aims to deliver and promote a range of investigation and enforcement activities both civil and criminal in nature, to support fair and open markets. We do this by effectively enforcing the statutory company and insolvency regimes, maintaining public confidence in those regimes and reducing the harm caused to victims of fraudulent activity and to the business community, including dealing with the disqualification of directors in corporate failures.
BEIS’ mission is to build a dynamic and competitive UK economy that works for all, in particular by creating the conditions for business success and promoting an open global economy. The Criminal Investigations and Prosecutions team contributes to this aim by taking action to deter fraud and to regulate the market. They investigate and prosecute a range of offences, primarily relating to personal or company insolvencies.
The agency also authorises and regulates the insolvency profession, 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.
All public enquiries concerning the affairs of the company should be made to: The Official Receiver, Public Interest Unit (South), The Insolvency Service, 2nd Floor, 4 Abbey Orchard Street, London SW1P 2HT. Tel: 020 7637 6578 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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