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Carbon Neutral Investments and CNI (UK) Ltd

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Over the past two weeks, Richard Smith has written a series of posts on Naked Capitalism about Carbon Neutral Investments and carbon credit scams. REDD-Monitor provided two handy guides to these posts, here and here.

On 13 November 2013, REDD-Monitor received a letter from Thomas Eggar LLP, a UK-based firm of solicitors. Thomas Eggar LLP informed REDD-Monitor that “We are writing to you on behalf of CNI (UK) LIMITED (our “Client”),” and that CNI (UK) Ltd is “understandably concerned” by posts because “they contain false or inaccurate statements which seek to create associations between our Client, its customers and carbon credits being sold as personal investments.”

Thomas Eggar LLP explains that CNI (UK) Ltd is the result of a “management buyout” of the “environmental consultancy and offsetting practice previously undertaken by Carbon Neutral Investments Limited”. CNI (UK) Ltd was incorporated on 29 January 2013 and its company registration number is 8380328. Carbon Neutral Investments was incorporated on 24 May 2004 and its registration number is 5136014.

“This information is readily available from publically [sic] accessible sources,” writes Thomas Eggar LLP.

Thomas Eggar LLP also explains that CNI (UK) Ltd took on Carbon Neutral Investments’ offsetting contracts at the time of the buyout. Any contracts since then are “between CNI (UK) Limited and its customers and do not involve Carbon Neutral Investments Limited”.

And Thomas Eggar LLP makes a request:

In light of the above, our Client would appreciate that you clarify on your website that they do not sell carbon credits to personal investors nor do they undertake boiler room type activities and that any association with such activity or the company Carbon Neutral Investments is false.

Consider it done.

Here’s the story so far. Carbon Neutral Investments sold carbon offsets to companies to make them “carbon neutral” and provided clearing and settlement services for companies selling voluntary carbon credits. In April 2013, CNI (UK) Ltd (whose director is Edward Carlton) took over the former role as a “management buyout”, and Gemmax Solutions (whose director is Paul Seakens) took over the latter. Whatever was left of Carbon Neutral Investments became Opus Capital (whose director is Paul Seakens). Seakens and Carlton were colleagues in Carbon Neutral Investments, and as we will see, Seakens registered a company called CNI (UK) Ltd in December 2012 – not the same company that hired Thomas Eggar LLP, but one that had the same name and whose directors are Carlton and Seakens.

Gemmax Solutions recently posted a response to three posts on Naked Capitalism and two on REDD-Monitor. (Richard Smith’s reply is, as ever, well worth a read.)

The history of the company formerly known as Carbon Neutral Investments goes back to May 2004, when a company called M M & S (3090) Limited was registered at Companies House in the UK.

The company has changed its name several times over the years, as this screenshot from duedil.com shows:

Ray Zimmerman was a director of the firm from 18 August 2004 to 19 November 2010. On 9 February 2009, he registered another firm called Zimmerman Adams International Corporate Finance Ltd., which still exists under the name ZAI Corporate Finance Ltd.

When Zimmerman left, Paul Seakens became a director. Under Seakens, the name changed to AGT Investments Ltd (July 2011), then to Carbon Neutral Investments Limited (October 2011, shortly before Thomas Knifton started his short run as director), and most recently to Opus Capital (April 2013).

Knifton’s involvement is obviously somewhat embarrassing for Seakens, given Knifton’s record of working in, er, boiler room scams.

Seakens/Gemmax has an explanation:

Mr. Knifton was only involved with Opus Capital Limited for a short period of time as a non-executive chairman. Mr. Knifton was not involved in the day-to-day operation of Montagu [sic] Pitman and was not personally censured by the FSA in respect of Montagu [sic] Pitman Limited because he was not directly involved as Senior Management in the Firm.
 
To our knowledge neither Mr. Knifton nor any members of the Knifton family are shareholders in Opus Capital (nor are they shareholders of Gemmax Solutions).

So where did CNI (UK) Ltd come from? The director of CNI (UK) Ltd is Edward Carlton. According to his LinkedIn profile, Carlton was “Head of UK Operations” at Carbon Neutral Investments for two years until March 2013:

On 29 January 2013, Carlton registered a company called Alfred Henry Shelco 2 Limited. Two days later the company changed its name to CNI (UK) Ltd.

But this wasn’t the first appearance of the name CNI (UK) Ltd. Paul Seakens registered a company under that name on 14 December 2012. Three days later, he retired his directorship and handed over to Edward Carlton. On 31 January 2013, the company changed its name to Yarmouth Place Limited.

Seakens/Gemmax has an explanation:

CNI (UK) Limited, Alfred Henry Shelco 2 Limited and Yarmouth Place Limited. All this reflects is a common practice used by many companies which is explained as follows; when Opus Capital Limited took the decision to dispose of its carbon offsetting business the CNI (UK) Limited name was protected (from it being used by other parties) by renaming an existing dormant company. Once the details of the transaction were concluded the CNI (UK) Limited name was made available to the owners and placed onto another dormant company Alfred Henry Shelco 2 Limited. There is no subterfuge involved, this is a common practice and clearly all the changes are a matter of public record.

The letters page of Private Eye, has a long-running series called Lookalike in which readers send in pictures of two famous individuals who look alike. Maybe I need to get out more, but it seems to me that this might make an interesting entry:

Seakens/Gemmax has an explanation:

CNI (UK) Limited was a management buy-out of the carbon offsetting practice from Opus Capital Limited. Therefore it is no wonder the websites and branding are similar. Mr. Carlton and Mr. Seakens have worked together on a number of businesses and no attempt has been made to hide this fact.

A curiosity to end with. First, a screenshot of CNI (UK) Ltd’s “Partners and Clients” list as it was on 27 October 2013 (safely stored on archive.org):

And here’s the rather more concise list as it appeared on CNI (UK) Ltd’s website on 14 November 2013 (safely stored on archive.is):


 

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  1. Well the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. We know that neither Carbon Neutral Investments (nor Gemmax) actually bought or sold Carbon Credits. But through their clearing and settlement services they provided the link between the Suppliers and the Brokers who often mis sold them as investments to the public.

    Are they really saying that they did not know what was going on? That they are some kind of innocent party to this giant scam? That like Pontius Pilate they would like to wash their hands of the matter? Really?

  2. Comforting to know that companies involved in this business are able to afford expensive legal representation, when the vast majority of people scammed by boiler rooms cannot. In addition to AGT I note that Carbon-Expert have also had Google remove search results that link to some uncomfortable posts about them on REDD-Monitor. In other words boiler rooms have made enough money to afford the legal costs involved in pursuing internet censorship. Makes you feel warm inside doesn’t it?

  3. I spent 1 week as my first job in broking at Carbon Neutral Investments and can categorically state it is definitely a non legitimate company, selling illegitimate products, under unscrupulous sales tactics, to anyone they can lure into buying them. After 1 week and about 50 calls (none of which were successful I might add!) I decided this company was not for me and I promptly left (I didn’t get paid either!).

    Personally, I wouldn’t recommend anyone to use this business or any company associated with it.

  4. I have just been contacted by George Anderson from Opus Capital 02071646453 claiming they can sell my Carbon Credits. Is this another scam and is there any company that can sell them.

  5. @Mich Hirst (#5) – Here are a few red flags:

    1. Opus Capital cold called you. That’s a really bad sign.

    2. Opus Capital claims to be able to sell your carbon credits. The unfortunate reality is that your carbon credits are worthless and there is effectively no secondary market for voluntary carbon credits.

    3. Paul Seakens is one of the directors of Opus Capital. It’s one of the companies that appeared from the ashes of Carbon Neutral Investments. In February 2016, the Insolvency Service shut down 19 carbon credit scam companies with links to CNI.

    Paul Seakens has featured in several posts on REDD-Monitor.