The Serious Fraud Office has opened a criminal investigation into “alleged fraud concerning Global Forestry Investments”. The company’s “ethical” investments in teak plantations in Brazil may not have been so ethical after all.
REDD-Monitor wrote about Global Forestry Investments in March 2014. The company, which is now in liquidation, was run by Andrew Skeene and Omari Bowers. GFI offered retail investors a chance to invest a minimum of £5,000 in the Belem Sky teak plantation in Brazil, promising returns of “10-20% per annum”.
Andrew Callen, a solicitor at Alisons Legal Practice in Wales, is acting on behalf of 80 people who handed over money to Global Forestry Investments. In September 2014, Callen told the News and Star that somewhere between £10 million and £20 million has been lost.
The SFO is also investigating another Skeene and Bowers company called Global Forex Investments.
The SFO is asking anyone who has handed money over to either Global Forestry Investments or Global Forex Investments to complete a questionnaire on the SFO website (click on the image to go to the questionnaire):
This week, the SFO carried out two search warrants in Hertfordshire, in the southeast of England.
A company called Emerald Knight marketed Global Forestry Investments’ plots of teak plantations. They assured retail investors of a “fixed 10% annual return”, with a return of “10-20% at thinning years”.
While Global Forestry Investments was not regulated by the Financial Services Authority, Emerald Knight reassured potential investors that,
Your funds are held in a UK trustee Citadel who are FSA regulated http://www.citadeltrustees.com/
Citadel Trustees role with investors in Global Forestry Investments was later taken over by Title Trustees International. Both firms are subsidiaries of Hutchinson & Co. Trust Company Limited. You can read more about Citadel Trustees, here. In April 2014, the company changed its name to Highpoint Trustees.
Tony Hetherington at the Daily Mail first wrote about Citadel Trustees in March 2012. He recently asked Anna Rickard, a director at Highpoint Trustees, some questions about her company’s role. Rickard answered:
“We have already discussed matters with the FCA and do not feel we are able to comment any further.”
So much for Highpoint’s duty to check that investors are not being misled. Anna Rickard is also a director of a company called Global Forestry Investments Title Limited.
In the public interest, and just in case the Serious Fraud Office hasn’t seen any of these documents, here are REDD-Monitor’s files on Global Forestry Investments (click on the images to download the files):
If anyone has more documents from Global Forestry Investments, please send them to the Serious Fraud Office, via their website questionnaire (or send them to firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll upload them here).