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Another boiler room scam? Enviro Associates’ “misleading” claims about carbon credits

Earlier this month, the BBC secretly filmed the director of UK-based company Enviro Associates making “apparently misleading” claims about the amount of money to be made by investing in carbon credits. The director, Luke Ryan, said there was “serious money” to be made.

Ryan was offering carbon credits for sale at a price of £5.50 each. He claimed that this was a discounted rate, compared to the “retail price” of £7. Ryan said that,

“In the next four to five years the market could go from anywhere from 100 to 500%. So you could be buying at £5.50 now, but in a year’s time it could be [worth] £10, £11, £12, £13.”

The BBC spoke to Edward Hanrahan, from ClimateCare who said that the credits should actually be sold for less than £1 each. ClimateCare sells carbon credits, but does not recommend buying them as an investment. A statement on the company’s website explains that,

ClimateCare provides high quality Verified Emission Reductions (VERs) to help individuals and businesses take responsibility for their carbon emissions by offsetting their carbon footprint. ClimateCare does not recommend VERs should be purchased by unsophisticated Investors as an investment.

The UK’s Financial Services Authority has put out two warnings about investing in carbon credits, although the FSA does not regulate the trade in carbon credits.

The BBC reports that it filmed Ryan explaining that “customers’ money would be held in accounts protected by the FSA”. On its website, Enviro Associates states that, “We are a clearing member of Carbon Neutral Investments Limited (CNI).”

Carbon Neutral Investments Limited was registered in the UK in May 2004. It has operated under six different names since then. On its website Carbon Neutral Investments provides a list of the companies for which it provides clearing and settlement services. One of the companies is Worldwide Commodity Partners Limited, which in common with Enviro Associates cold calls potential investors to encourage them to buy carbon credits. Carbon Neutral Investments is on the FSA register, where a note points out that the company is “Unable to hold client money.”

Carbon Neutral Investment’s company brochure (pdf file, 5 MB) certainly looks impressive. The company is working with What Car? magazine, to offset the emissions from its road tests and it’s sponsoring the What Car? Green Car awards. Carbon Neutral Investments was also involved in Vodafone Mclaren Mercedes becoming the world’s first carbon neutral Formula 1 team, including selecting projects to source carbon credits to offset the Formula 1 team’s emissions.

Another company, called AGT Investments is also involved. According to a sample “Offset Certificate and Receipt” available on Enviro Associates’ website, “All of our carbon credits are of the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) and have already been purchased by AGT Investments Limited.”

All three companies, Enviro Associates, Carbon Neutral Investments and AGT Investments share the same office address in London. They also share the same director: Paul Seakens.

Unfortunately, Paul Seakens did not respond to my questions about the three companies, sent last week. Of course, I look forward to posting his response on REDD-Monitor, if he does reply.


UPDATE – 10 December 2012: Seakens replied on 6 December 2012. His response is posted here.


From: Chris Lang
Date: 20 November 2012 19:32
Subject: Carbon Neutral Investments – some questions from REDD-Monitor
To: Paul Seakens

Dear Paul,

Greetings from Jakarta! My name is Chris Lang and I run a website called REDD-Monitor. I recently came across your company Carbon Neutral Investments Ltd. and would be grateful if you could answer the following questions about the company for an upcoming post on REDD-Monitor:

1. Please describe briefly what your company does and how many people are employed there.

2. I understand that CNI provides clearing and settlement services for companies selling over the counter carbon credits. Please explain what these services involve and why such a service is necessary.

3. One of the companies on CNI’s list of companies for which CNI provides clearing and settlement services is Enviro Associates. You are a director of Enviro Associates and of CNI. You are also a director of AGT Investments Ltd., the company that buys Enviro Associates’ carbon credits. Isn’t there a conflict of interest here?

4. CNI is on the Financial Services Authority register. The register for CNI includes a Notice that states: “Unable to hold client money.” Could you please explain what this means and how CNI provides financial services without holding client money.

5. According to Enviro Associates, AGT Investments Ltd. buys only VCS certified carbon credits. But what proof does CNI (or AGT Investments Ltd. or Enviro Associates) give to people who buy the carbon credits to show that this is in fact true?

6. Could you please explain exactly what CNI did to make Vodafone Mclaren Mercedes the world’s first carbon neutral Formula 1 team. According to CNI’s brochure, “Vodafone Mclaren Mercedes worked alongside CNI to select projects that would prove to be not only ideologically relevant to their core business, but also ethically viable.” Which projects were selected to supply the carbon credits to make Vodafone Mclaren Mercedes “carbon neutral”?

Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you. Please consider your response to be on the record and please reply before 27 November 2012.

Thanks and regards, Chris Lang
 

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21 Comments

  1. Chris
    I have just found out that my 82yr old neighbour has been cold called by one of the companies on cni website, mason Warburg. They have managed to get £55,000 from him yet he has not even returned the contracts of purchase to them. The payments were direct to CNI bank accounts(2 of them). They have charged £6.50 p/ credit !
    The poor guy feels distraught, and lts face it will probably shorten his life due to the worry of spending his life savings!

  2. @Simon (#1) – Thanks for this. I’m sorry to hear about your neighbour.

    Last week I did a post explaining what to do if you think you’ve been scammed. The short version is: Contact Action Fraud, either via their website or by ringing them up on 0300 123 2040.

    Action Fraud

  3. April,2012 my wife and I were cold called by London green financial.With high pressure sales techniques,we were fleeced of £47k.LGF went into liquidation
    2/4/13 .No chance of recovering cash.Has been reported to Action fraud,and our M.P.We are both pensioers,and are distressed.This a case for protection by law!

  4. Definately reqs legal embracement, to cover all aspects of these unsavoury
    events happening in the future.

  5. I also had dealings with LGF and am now £19000 lighter. High pressure sales etc. I also reported to action fraud weeks ago, no chance of getting a penny back. The distress is insurmountable.

  6. Also I think I have an address of one of these ” gentlemen” and a contact number for at least one other. Surely they can’t be tricky to track down?

  7. Julia
    I dealt with the matter by contacting Action Fraud and also LLoyds bank who CNI use. I explained the circumstances of my elderly neighbour. I sent a letter to both CNI and their Lloyds bank. My neighbour had not signed the contracts that had been sent to him although the funds had been taken by CNI. In the letter on behalf of my neighbour I stated that the contracts had not been signed and he was now changing his mind and wanted a refund of all monies. I sent this to their bank and to them. All monies have been returned. I believe that CNI accounts may have been frozen so they cant move any clients monies, so maybe if anyone feels that they want to at least try and claim back then to do so ASAP.

  8. Further to #3 & 4,some of the people involved with LGF are: Simon Johnson,David Urlwin,Mike Nash.If any of these names come up in any deals – give them a WIDE berth! I hve heard nothing from Action Fraud since,I dont suppose I will ever see any of my money again?
    Nev Jack.

  9. Charlene Robertson (who sounds rather like a polite and trustworthy school mistress but is clearly sadly anything but that) is another of the people involved with this most dubious form of commercial enterprise.

    She initially called me in November with her number withheld and I had to seem like I was interested to find out who they were. When Charlene had established that I was a potential “sucker” she then told me she would be passing my details on to her colleague Simon Johnson to call me.

    Simon is one of those Arthur Daley type born salesman (he even has the same Sarf London type accent) who probably even allows himself to believe he is selling worthy investments in order to make himself seem convincing to potential victims. He also rather unwisely had the honesty to tell me he was speaking to me from the balcony of his apartment in Ibiza sipping a drink and watching the setting sun when we first spoke to me and also liked to make out I was being advised by a very rich expert investor by telling me that he had been doing a lot of “day trading” in Apple Shares.

    Simon is memorable for the fact that after I posted to warn others not to be taken in by this firm in a thread about the firm at http://whocallsme.com/Phone-Number.aspx/02079654624 he then had the nerve to phone me and say how I would like it if other people started making posts about me on the internet without my permission. This of course assumes that he is actually known as Simon Johnson Esq (the style of address he and several of his colleagues used when there was at one stage a staff profile section on their) at all since Simon Johnson is effectively a somewhat posher and slightly more convincing variation on John Smith.

    I would never fall for their scam but I know an elederly friend of my mother’s who would do very easily, especially as she is lonely cannot get out and likes speaking to people on the phone for company. It is shocking that the employees of this firm try to earn their living by trying to part such vulnerable and generally elderly people from their life’s savings.

    I have also had a follow up call from Hampshire Police about this firm as a result of my report to http://www.actionfraud.police.uk They said they were taking this seriously as they had received several reports and that one of the Directors of the company was well known to them for his previous business activities. The BBC has also been taking an interest in the firm and its most cheeky salesman of all, Luke Ryan. See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-hampshire-20265034 If anyone wants to contact me about this send an email to wackyraces@gmx.com

  10. I have been offered exit by few companies whose names does not appears here. Enviro Associate told me no one provide exit at present and if transferred my VER’S and CER’s with other brokers I would be in trouble.
    They want to safeguard my position as there is going to be electronic platform to carry out the trade. How is it some brokers have manage to exit their clients. The credits are registered with VCS and CDN registery. so one believes that they safe. At some point they should have resale value.

    Can we have some hopeful comments please to make best of bad situation.

  11. Wev’e been scammed by two companies who sold us useless carbon credits, Manor Rose who went into admnistration and then CNI and a further company called Good2begreen. In total we have lost around 12K. We have also contacted Action Fruad with no positive outcome.

  12. I have also been unlucky enough to join the above. I purchased through a company called “The Trend is Blue”. The MD is a guy called Simon Andrews who went on to involve me in another investment. I am now being pestered by Enviro Assc. and a company called “The Carbon Trading Exchange” both of whom can’t wait to help me sell my credits.( For a price of course ). None of these people can be trusted.

  13. So… Where do I go to find a reputeable broker for carbon credits?
    My parents have bought many (along with diamonds, reare earth metals, US shares, land, wine….nearly every scam) and I don’t want them to be caught out again! I contacted Enviro Assoc who sounded very good on the phone and sent me a professional looking email, the only thing I found odd was that to join them as broker I needed to buy £500 worth of carbon credits off them.
    I undertstand that at the moment credits are not tradeable but want to be in a position to trade when possible.
    Are there any companies out there that won’t rip us off ??

  14. kay (and other people with lots of money to invest but apparently not enough common sense not to be easily separated from it by organised conmen),

    You really can’t expect much from Action Fraud as they are merely a pooled central database for the Police to access to follow up on cases.

    If you have actually lost £12,000 to the scammers then you need to be down at your local Police station making a report for theft and deception and also actively chasing up your local Chief Constable by letter or email about what he is going to do about the problem in general and about your particular case.

    It really is a scandal that the financial regulators are still taking the line that as these are unregulated investments they don’t have to do anything about the issue instead of seeing it as the biggest problem they have got in the investment market and spearheading a probe and also demands for the Police to investigate and shut down these criminal scam gangs. Ditto the useless, overpaid and lazy ICO should be getting off his backside and trying to impose fines on as many as possible of these people given that they are all reliant on breaching TPS registrations in order to ply their trade.

  15. These guys seem to be still in business and are in contact with me to join their group by buying 100 credits @£4 which will get my 3800 other credits on to the Carbon Exchange where they can be viewed and purchased in the future. They will help with the sale and payment arrangements. No mention of exit costs.

  16. James, No.
    I was offered the same for £540…. There is no exit for carbon credits, when there is one there will be many companies wanting your business. The only trade you should make is for x% of the selling price once you have sold.

  17. Has any one had problems with locating their carbon Credits through Carlton Chase>?

  18. I have been contacted by a Mr Oliver Turner who claims to be the Compliance Director of Eton Stanley of 29 Throgmorton St,London who claims that he can sell the above credits . His Company has since stopped trading from the above address, but and he now seems to operate from a private address.Any information welcome

  19. I expect that Mr Turner, like all the others, will want you to buy more credits, or something else, in order for you to be a client or to ‘raise’ your profile. Do not. All you will end up with is more useless credits and less money in your bank.

  20. Regarding Mason Warburg,I tried to contact them today (2 July 2014) and was told by the switchboard that that company had gone away without leaving any alternative address or contact number.
    I believe that the office management at 27-28 Clements Lane,London EC4N 7AE are seeking to trace Mason Warburg.

  21. Recently contacted by police. No names, but big things expected next 12 months. Know its not easy,as with myself and wife ,but if you have reported your probs, be patent. Save EVERYTHING you have, there are a lot of victims to be interviewed by them.