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“Beware when an investment involves Carbon Neutral Investments,” warns the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority

Carbon Neutral Investments is a UK-based company that, until recently, offered two services. First, it worked with companies to sell them carbon offsets to make them “carbon neutral”. Second it provided clearing and settlement services for companies selling voluntary carbon credits.

When REDD-Monitor asked Paul Seakens, the director of Carbon Neutral Investments, some questions about the company, his answers shed little light on the company’s operations. “Please refer to our website,” he said, when I asked him to describe what his company did.

This week, Carbon Neutral Investments seems to have stopped doing business. The company’s website now displays only one page, directing you either to Gemmax Solutions, for “information regarding the Carbon Clearing platform and the Clearing service”, or to CNI (UK), for “information regarding the CNI UK offsetting business”.

My most recent visit to Carbon Neutral Investment’s website was on 22 April 2013. The website’s “List of Trading Members” gave a long list of companies that “CNI provides clearing and settlement services for”. You can see a copy of the list, as it was two days ago, here.

One of the companies on the list is Anglo-Capital Partners. Tony Hetherington, a journalist at the Daily Mail, visited Anglo-Capital’s registered office earlier this year, and found a five bedroom house, with a swimming pool, but no office. The house was for sale. Hetherington’s emails to the company bounced, the fax number didn’t work and telephone calls went unanswered. The company was required, by law, to file ownership details with Companies House in November 2012. It failed to do so. Nevertheless, on 22 April 2013, the company was still listed as “live” on Carbon Neutral Investment’s “List of Trading Members”.

“Anglo takes its responsibilities seriously in respect of treating customers clearly and fairly”, Paul Seakens, the director of Carbon Neutral Investments, told Hetherington. The fact that on its website Ango-Capital describes carbon credits as “a phenomenal alternative investment opportunity”, suggests otherwise.

Anglo-Capital was far from the only dodgy looking company on Carbon Neutral Investment’s list. MH Carbon was also on there, for example.

Carbon Neutral Investments has now transferred its “List of Trading Members” to Gemmax Solutions. The list is currently available as a list of “Clients” on Gemmax Solutions’ website. Anglo-Capital Partners is listed as “suspended”. MH Carbon is still “live”.

Gemmax Solutions’ website gives its office address as 3/4 Great Malborough Street, London. The building has a Starbucks Coffee on the ground floor, and more than 200 companies sharing the rest of the building (pictured left, from google maps). Clearly at least some of these companies have virtual offices.

But are there links between Gemmax Solutions and Carbon Neutral Investments? It seems there are. Gemmax Soluntion’s website was registered on 22 March 2013 by Simon Minton, who is director of a website design company called Minton Kendereski. Another of Minton’s companies, Minton & Co., designed Carbon Neutral Investment’s website. Minton & Co shares the same office address as Carbon Neutral Investments (1-6 Yarmouth Place, London). It also shares the same secretary, Vaeron Limited. Paul Seakens is secretary of Vaeron Limited.


UPDATE – 25 April 2013: Simon Minton of Minton Kendereski got in touch today to make the following clarification:
 

Minton & Company (which bears my own name and of which I am particularly proud) is/was a web development firm up until the formation of Minton Kendereski in September of last year when I merged my practice with that of Michal Kendereski (our full details are on the Minton Kendereski site). We are based in a serviced office in Mayfair, which is also used by Carbon Neutral Investments and at least 30 other firms. We have built sites for a number of clients in the office building, as you might expect given that they are potential clients on our doorstep.
We also operate for large international companies who would be considered household names. We pride ourselves on the quality of our bespoke work and whilst I am unsure why you have felt the need to include our details in your article, you are perfectly welcome to.
 
We have no association beyond a client/supplier relationship with CNI – Paul Seakens’ position as secretary of Minton and Company Limited is such because this was my first company and I quite literally had absolutely no idea how to set it up and go about the administrative side! His appointment was terminated on 14/03/2013 in favour of moving everything to the accountants of Minton Kendereski Limited.

 


There are two companies registered in the UK with the words Gemmax Solutions in their names: Gemmax Solutions Ltd. and Gemmax Solutions Nominees Ltd. Gemmax Solutions was established on 20 May 2010 and its director is Gary Harrowell. The company was dormant, but on 11 April 2013, the company changed its name from Gemmax Investments to Gemmax Solutions. The second company, Gemmax Solutions Nominees was established a few days ago, on 9 April 2013. Both companies are registered at 3/4 Great Marlborough Street.

And what about CNI (UK)? Is this company linked to Carbon Neutral Investments? The logos are the same. The websites are very similar. But they are two separately registered companies. CNI (UK) was established as Alfred Henry Shelco 2 Limited on 29 January 2013. Two days later, the company’s name was changed to CNI (UK). The company’s director is Edward Jonathan Carlton, who is also director of three other companies: Vaeron Finance, Seasaw, and Yarmouth Place. All three companies share the same office address as Carbon Neutral Investments (1-6 Yarmouth Place, London). Paul Seakens is also a director of Vaeron Finance and Yarmouth Place.

The Financial Conduct Authority has issued a warning about Carbon Neutral Investments, posted in full below. (FCA took over from the Financial Services Authority in April 2013, as the UK’s financial regulatory body.) Perhaps the FCA now needs to put out another warning to cover some of these other companies.

Beware when an investment involves Carbon Neutral Investments

 
Published: 29/03/2013
 
We are concerned about investments involving Carbon Neutral Investments. Find out more and how to protect yourself from unauthorised firms.
 
Several unauthorised firms promoting and selling carbon credits are telling investors that Carbon Neutral Investments Limited (CNI), a firm authorised by us, will handle the money in their investment.
 
We believe this is done to suggest investors will be protected as though they are dealing with an authorised firm. But this is not correct.
 

Investing in carbon credits

 
We continue to receive many reports from people who have been approached by firms promoting and selling carbon credits in the UK.
 
These reports usually include the investor stating that they have lost money on the investment by not being able to sell, or at least get a competitive rate, when trading the carbon credits.
 
Find out more about carbon credits and what to consider before investing in them.
 

Protection when investing in carbon credits

 
Many of the firms involved in promoting and selling carbon credits are not authorised by us. If you buy an investment product from an unauthorised firm – even if an authorised firm like CNI (FRN 403428) handles the money in the investment – you will not have access to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) or Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) if things go wrong.
 
As we do not regulate carbon credits as an investment product in the same way as shares or units, you also will not have access to the FOS or FSCS where the firm involved is authorised by us. This includes where you cannot sell or trade carbon credits.
 

Further information

 
If you are concerned about an investment in carbon credits you should contact our Consumer Helpline.
 
You can also take our 10 steps to protect yourself and check our list of firms and individuals to avoid.
 

 

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31 Comments

  1. It seems to me that all CNI are doing is splitting their offsetting business from the business that provides credits to the dodgy brokers that sell to us. So the FSA warnings don’t apply to Gemmax and CNI avoid all the bad press and phone calls from investors.

  2. @Mike (#1) – Exactly. Carbon Neutral Investments became controversial, so they changed the name.

  3. I notice that CNI , GEMMAX and Opus capital´s website has vanished? are they still in business?

  4. @Robert Stevens (#3) – Thanks for this. CNI (UK) Ltd has a note about “urgent maintenance”:

    I’ve written to the CNI (UK) email to ask when the website will be back online.

    I’ve done a google search and there doesn’t seem to be any news about Carbon Neutral Investments, Gemmax Solutions or Opus Capital (and no new documents at Companies House – at least not listed on duedil.com). All three websites have disappeared completely. As has Enviro Associates’ website, another one of Paul Seakens’ operations.

  5. I have invested every bit of savings in carboncredits over 200k, most is held by CNI, have I lost everything, I am very worried as disabled unable to work and nearly 58yrs.

  6. @stephen boraston (#5) – I’m very sorry to hear about this. I would advise contacting Action Fraud, either via their website or by ringing them up on 0300 123 2040.

    Action Fraud

    Action Fraud works with the City of London Police and the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau.

  7. I also have noticed that these websites are inacessable.Does this mean my money is getting further from me? As with Mr Boraston,it seems as though these companies are going underground? Perhaps the new fraud set up which starts in October has frightened them?N.J.

  8. The carbon credit registry operated by CNI was my only proof of my VCS holding so even that has now gone it seems. Even if I found an exit (unlikey I know) it would seem I have no proof of ownership. Is there anyway to retrieve necessary information on my supposed holding?

  9. @Phil (#8) and nev jack (#7) – See comment (#6). Please contact Action Fraud. As well as reporting the fraud, they should be able to provide advice on what you can do.

  10. Can you believe it I got yet another call today from what seems like a recovery scam – Mort Alternatives offering to sell my credits on the California exchange at £12.
    California Exchange? – that is a new one on me but first I need to become a client of theirs by buying some credits.
    As if not being able to verify my holding any more isn’t enough (see above post) I am still being plagued by these ‘new’ companies.
    Anyone else got a call from Mort Alternatives? If so I suggest you avoid them like the plague.

  11. Tell Mort where to go with themselves. There is a Californian carbon market. Auctions for credits have started recently, £12 is in the ballpark price range but…… the Californian exchange does not accept voluntary credit.

    Avoid!

  12. Another recovery scam IFXBG. They have actually put in a written contract that if I buy CERs from them this will initiate a guaranteed buyback from the China Investment Corp for both the CERs and VERs.

    Guess what – there is a First Notification of strike off action on Duedil. Have reported it to action fraud, but you wouldn’t believe these people would think thay can get away with it. Maybe they often do.

  13. Is there way to sell my VERs purchased from CNI? I have already reported this matter to FCA and Action Fraud.

  14. HI

    I am currently doing some research on carbon credits and the scams involved (for work) and I came across this website http://www.enviroassociates.org.uk/?page_id=256

    It has those names you mentioned in the article (CNI and Gemmax???), I dont know if this helps at all? I must be honest I dont really understand how it all works, the scamming I mean? If someone could explain it to me in layman’s terms it would really help me!

  15. @George (#14) – The boiler room carbon credit scam is very simple. Companies buy carbon credits very cheaply (a few US cents). These often come from large hydropower projects, wind farms or industrial gas projects often in India or China. The projects generate a large number of carbon credits. The vintage of the credits (i.e. when the emissions reduction was made) is often several years ago.

    Having bought these cheap credits, the companies then sell them for very much more (up to US$15), claiming that they are an investment. The companies often cold call members of the public and use high pressure sales tactics to encourage them to buy.

    There’s more information about Enviro Associates here:

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

    And all REDD-Monitor’s posts on carbon credit boiler rooms are collected here: http://bit.ly/Y2z7YX.

  16. IFXBG LIMITED DOES NOT OFFER CARBON CREDITS, SHARES, OR ANY OFFERINGS DIRECTLY IF YOU HAVE BEEN CONTACTED BY SOMEONE BY TELEPHONE TO BUY OUR SERVICES, PLEASE EMAIL INFO@IFXBG.COM TO VERIFY. WE MAKE ABSOLUTELY NO OFFERINGS TO THE PUBLIC. BEWARE OF COMPANIES CLAIMING TO BE OUR FIRM. We do not sell Carbon Credits, shares, or any other service to individuals.

    Please send copies of all communications you have with these fraudsters, if you have invested with them, you have lost all your funds.

  17. The website IFXBG.net has been closed down due to our Legal Team and 24 hours of collecting statements from people who have been vicitims. We have one win under our belt, so what is the next step. Our firm IFXBG has also been a victim and filed a police report, we suggest you do the same. This is the only way that Cloudflare.com and the host zevshost.net will be capable of giving the police the personal information of the ones who hosted the website and defrauded you.

    The group apparently has been linked to a scam called Burnhill, read the following forum where we were active and managed to get statements from victims. http://reviews.money.co.uk/review/100634-burnhill-land-investments-111-buckingham-palace-road-london-sw1w-0sr-0845-265-7575.htm

  18. Has anyone dealt with Taylor Langton Associates Ltd/Conservative Carbon Credits Ltd? The latter company has registry showing certificates delivered. I invested in two carbon credits and got one certificate and not the other. Who will be issuing the certificate now that both companies are in liquidation/dissolved? Even then how can I know what is the worth of the VER certificate I have or for the one I have not got? How does one sell out from the carbon credits if of any value?

    I have been in touch recently with Clearview Partnership who said they located one of my carbon credits with CNI and that they would deal with exiting my holding once I also purchase more credits and become a client.
    I had also called EVR Associates Limited who put me in touch with a Paul Seakens Gemmax who say they were CNI and now are Opus Capital and who would trace my carbon credits transferred to them – await response and wonder whether it will lead to a boiler room recovery scam! I would have to invest with EVR afterwards once the 2 carbon credits are located I registry and then monitor exit of all.
    Any comments please.

  19. @Lily (#18) – The director of EVR Income is Luke Ryan, who is also the director of Enviro Associates. Paul Seakens used to be a director of Enviro Associates and Carbon Neutral Investments (which is now called Opus Capital).

    There are several posts about CNI and related companies on REDD-Monitor:

    28 November 2012: Another boiler room scam? Enviro Associates’ “misleading” claims about carbon credits

    8 December 2012 Response from Paul Seakens, Director of Carbon Neutral Investments and Enviro Associates

    27 February 2013 Is the Knifton family behind Carbon Neutral Investments?

    24 April 2013 “Beware when an investment involves Carbon Neutral Investments,” warns the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority

    And there’s a post about Clearview Partnership, here:

    31 May 2013: Clearview Partnership Ltd: The most incompetent carbon credit boiler room so far?

  20. I made a 25K investment with a company called Manor Rose. Six months later they went into liquidation. Apparently
    my carbon credits were transferred to SJL Risk, which is a holding company?? On making contact to them, they advised if I wanted to sell my investment, I would have to go through a carbon credit broker. Low and behold, Enviro Associates has become my broker, (for another small investment). When joining them they made the promise to sell my carbon credits, but after 9 months nothing has happened.
    This week, I have been contacted by Enviro Associates to transfer my holdings to Gemmax Solutions so they can make a sell. From reading the history about these companies, I don’t think so. I have a feeling I have been scammed and will never see my investment again.
    Two months ago I sent a written statement to the fraud squad in London about this scam. I am still waiting the outcome.

  21. I have spoken with Gemmax Solutions and they have confirmed my holdings (3000 credits, thank goodness!). They advised that the custody services provided by CNI have also been taken over by Gemmax. In any case, they seemed really helpful. They did make a point to “remind me that Gemmax (and previously CNI) do not buy, sell or trade in Carbon Credits, they simply provide a platform which facilitates such trading between brokerages and suppliers.”

    If that’s the case then it seems perhaps a little harsh to direct all frustration with the market towards CNI/Gemmax – after all, they are just providing a service (essentially a glorified payment processor, I guess!). They don’t have control over what the greedy brokerages will say to you over phone, and at the end of the day when said brokerage disappears (probably as much to CNI/Gemmax’s surprise as ours), I personally think that there is no redress to CNI/Gemmax – however upsetting that may be.

    If the brokerage disappears then I guess its just unlucky (sorry to say!). CNI/Gemmax were only acting as a settlement agent for the dodgy brokerages, and as such have technically done nothing wrong, other than providing a service for a client of theirs (the brokerage) and acting under their instruction to settle certain transactions. They have not sold anything to us. I see little to no point in reporting CNI/Gemmax to Fraud Squad or the FCA as there are no contracts between us (the client) and CNI/Gemmax, other than the custody agreement, I guess. Their client is the brokerage. It just seems pointless to even complain about or report them as it would never even stand up in court.
    It’s a shame that the market takes such a long time to wrap your head around, I’m glad at least that I seem to have finally grasped the picture. The market is a medium-long term hold for the product, and upon inspection Gemmax’s website does also state this. Its a real shame when the brokerages they provide services to market these VERs to investors as “short term, high profit” products when this is simply not the case. It is a speculative market and should be treated as such. If I’m perfectly honest I’m more frustrated at myself than anything, for simply ‘jumping on the bandwagon’ and not properly researching the product beforehand.

    It can be frustrating when you think you may have been scammed (as I did!) but frantically finding someone to point the finger at (CNI/Gemmax) seems a little unproductive.

    Chris Lang – on a side note – your site has been very informative and has helped me a lot on the way to locating my credits. So, thank you. One thing I would warn you about though is being too opinionated. It is now clear to me that the market is speculative by definition. Naturally you will therefore have people sitting on either side of the fence, i.e. those that believe the over-the-counter VER market will climb, and those that believe it will fall (I hold hope for the former outcome!). Your ‘opinions’ on this matter are just the flip-side of what the brokerages are pitching to us over the phone. Whilst it is definitely beneficial to hear such views, you often give these across as factual (telling people they’ve definitely been scammed and should contact Fraud Squad, that these VERs are, and will be, worth nothing, etc etc). Be careful Chris, you’re starting to sound no different to the brokers! All in all, however, a very good website – albeit more subjective than objective.

  22. JohnP. You make CNI/Gemmax sound like some kind of innocent party in this scam that has ruined many peoples lives. They well know what all the brokerages involved are doing. They have just been clever enough to distance themselves legally. Why get FCA authorised in an area not connected with their business if not to give the false impression of some kind of security?

    So they tell you they hold your credits? Ask them for the serial numbers. Ask them for the account at the registry APX or Markit. You will find you don’t legally own anything.

    By doing this they may arguably be runnning an Unauthorised Collective Investment Scheme.

    So fellow scammed. Report away. To the FCA to Action Fraud to anyone who will listen

  23. I randomly received a letter from Gemmax last week but dated 1st July stating what you have noted above. I have never had dealings with carbon Neutral investments or any other company Gemmax claim to work for. Anyone else had this happen to them?

  24. The factor remains when it comes to carbon it does not matter whether it is a regulated firm or not these companies selling cer’s and ver’s have known for some time that they can not sell credits on for investors, giving across promises that can not be honored. I only know of one company that has successfully sold carbon credits.

  25. Has anyone been contacted by Wells Zable claiming to be able to sell VER credits? Are you able to name the company who sold the carbon credits successfully?

  26. I have been approached by a company called Anglo Wealth Limited. They are offering a Fixed Interest Plan which ,they say, pays 9.25% on any amount of capital paid every 3 months. They are only 5 months old. I write because, until recently, (April) a director was listed as ‘Vaeron’ based at Yarmouth Place. This company is mentioned above. A clear link.

  27. I was approached yesterday by Ashley Smith of ‘Barclay Lewis’ claiming they now ‘sole agents’ for the 9.25% Anglo Wealth ‘bond’ mentioned by Rick above. Plenty of name dropping – Morgan Stanley, New York Life, Trans America, and Columbus!
    E-mail with more info promised yesterday but zilch so far.
    I think “If it looks 2g2btrue….”.

  28. Anglo Wealth are now on the FCA website under ‘firms not to deal with’

    ‘We believe this firm has been providing financial services or products in the UK without our authorisation. Find out why to be especially wary of dealing with this unauthorised firm and how to protect yourself from scammers.’
    Since then they have changed their name to AW FIP 2014 Ltd. One director has resigned. When I asked why they had changed the company name I was told they were upgrading to PLC status. I was also told the 9.25% Fixed Income Plan investment was no longer available.

  29. Hi,
    Anglo Wealth is now offering their investments in the media openly in South Africa, is this a scam company?

    Also any relation to a company called Acqumen Intelligent Investing?

    Concerned investor