At 9pm on 8 August 2013, ITV will broadcast a new series of “Fraud Squad”. Episode One includes footage of the arrest of Ian McDonald and David Downes at Heathrow airport. In April 2013, Downes became the first person in the UK to be jailed for his role in a carbon credit boiler room scam.
Downes pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud and offered to give £3.9 million back to the victims. He was sentenced to four-and-a-half years. McDonald was Downes’ money launderer. He chose to be judged by a jury and was sentenced to eight years for money laundering but was acquitted of fraud.
The police went to Heathrow airport to arrest McDonald, who has laundered at total of £18 million of UK fraud victims’ money. When the police found Downes travelling with McDonald they arrested both of them. ITV’s press release about the programme explains that,
Downes is the mastermind behind a number of international investment frauds, ruthlessly targeting over 2,000 British victims by pressurising them to buy worthless carbon credits and fake shares in eco-friendly companies.
Detective Inspector James Clancey states: “Downes is one of the significant individuals in Europe for this kind of criminality. He’s been involved in this for a number of years and MacDonald seems to be his money laundering organisation attached to the side of the criminality.”
City of London Police have recovered almost £5 million from MacDonald and Downes, which will be used to compensate victims.
Detective Constable Claire Armson-Smith describes McDonald and Downes as “two particularly greedy, selfish individuals”. In McDonald’s villa in Spain, police found a framed cashier’s cheque for £1 million. Armson-Smith describes McDonald and Downes’ lavish lifestyle:
“We know they travelled the world. Travelled business class. They had nice cars. Jaguars. Porsches. Nice clothes. Rolex watches.”
The lifestyle was financed at the expense of their victims, many of whom are elderly or vulnerable. Armson-Smith tells “Fraud Squad” the impact the fraud had on people’s lives:
“A number of victims have died. I’ve had elderly vulnerable victims with dementia having to go into homes. I’ve had victims saying they feel suicidal because of their losses. It’s just destroying people’s lives.”
Nelzine Green, a retired nurse and midwife, lost £64,000 (invested in fake or worthless shares). She tells “Fraud Squad” that,
“I felt really awful for a long time. Where I would go to bed and just lie there. You can’t sleep. You’re thinking that this is a lot of money that I’ve just chucked down the drain. What annoys is I’ve got two grandchildren. They’re very bright children. Instead of giving my money to men like that I could have left it to my grandchildren.”
Dr Greenhalgh lost £250,000. He’s been forced out of retirement and may have to sell his home. He was targeted when his wife was undergoing chemotherapy treatment.
Commander Steve Head is in charge of the Economic Crime Department at the City of London Police. He says,
“We are coming after those people who support, enable, who facilitate fraud, no matter where they are. No matter how remote they may think they are from the front line of the criminality, we are coming after them.”
The series “Fraud Squad” is made by Wild Pictures and Episode One will be broadcast on ITV 1 at 9pm on Thursday 8 August 2013.
UPDATE – 9 August 2013: Having watched the programme last night, it wasn’t really about carbon credit fraud. Downes targeted more than 2,000 people in the UK, pressurising them to buy worthless carbon credits and fake shares and is the first person in the UK to go to jail for his involvement in a carbon credit as investments sales scam. But the programme focussed on the police, the arrest of McDonald and Downes, and two of the victims. Carbon credits were mentioned twice in the hour-long programme. I’ve edited the post and the title to reflect this.