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Companies offering ‘investment’ in US oil wells closed down

Two companies that sold dubious oil investment products to members of the public in the UK have been wound-up in the High Court.

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Winding-up orders were made against Eco-Energy Corp (Eco - incorporated in Belize) and Sturgeon Estates Limited (Sturgeon), on 8 June on the petition of the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, following investigations by Company Investigations, part of the Insolvency Service.

The investigation found Eco acted as the contracting party and received customers’ money through an account with a firm of UK solicitors. Payments supposedly entitled investors to a percentage interest in the profits made by a number of oil wells in Texas, USA. Customers had no way to independently corroborate that their investments were in fact genuine, or being properly handled.

Sales were ‘introduced’ by a network of mostly UK companies, including Sturgeon, a company which previously sold Carbon Credits to the public as an investment product. Carbon Credits are widely acknowledged to have been wholly unsuitable for retail investors.

The High Court found that both Eco and Sturgeon had traded with a lack of transparency / stewardship and a ‘lack of commercial probity’. Although there had been a failure in both companies to maintain adequate books and records, the investigation found that at least £943,000 and £630,000 had been received by Eco and Sturgeon respectively.

The High Court also heard how a number of payments were made to customers in the guise of returns on their investments, but were in fact funded by monies paid in by other investors.

Commenting on the case, David Hill a chief investigator said:

Oil production is a risky business, but, whereas investing in a company listed on a recognised Stock Exchange should ensure that the corporate side of business is properly handled, Eco and Sturgeon’s customers were wholly let down in this regard.

The risks involved in investing were multiplied many times by those companies’ failures to attend to even basic principles of record keeping, corporate governance, and due diligence.

The concern is that these failures mask the true intentions of those behind the companies. Investors should be wary of any products which they hear about through cold calling, and even more so of products held in offshore jurisdictions with poor transparency and track records as regards corporate governance.

Notes to editors

Eco-Energy Corp. is a Belize International Business Company Registration Number 142,486, and was incorporated on 11 February 2014. Its registered office address is 21 Regent Street, Belize City, Belize. Sturgeon Estates Ltd, formerly Eco Commodities Ltd, is a UK limited company Registration Number 08187296. Its registered office is Peek House, 20 Eastcheap, London EC3M 1EB.

The petitions to wind-up both Eco-Energy Corp. and Sturgeon Estates Ltd were presented under s124A of the Insolvency Act 1986 on 21 March 2016. The companies were wound up on 8 June 2016 and the Official Receiver has been appointed as liquidator.

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 here.

All public enquiries concerning the affairs of the companies should be made to: The Official Receiver, Public Interest Unit, 2nd Floor, 4 Abbey Orchard Street, London SW1P 2HT. Telephone: 0207 637 1110 Email: piu.or@insolvency.gsi.gov.uk.

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.

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Published 15 July 2016