In February 2016, the High Court in London ordered 19 companies into liquidation. One of the companies was CNI (UK) Ltd, one of three companies that emerged in 2013 from the ashes of Carbon Neutral Investments, a company involved in selling carbon credits to retail investors.
The Insolvency Service also presented petitions to wind up 10 more companies at the High Court. Included on the list are the other two Carbon Neutral Investments companies: Gemmax Solutions and Opus Capital.
A few days after the High Court ruling “dave pitt” left a comment on REDD-Monitor asking if anyone had ever heard of “OPUS CAPITOL carbon registry EC2N 1HA”.
A couple of days later, “Barry” left two comments, saying that he’d been contacted by “Opus capital or OPUS CARBON REGISTRY as they are now called”. There was an advanced fee, of course, and a company called Alexander Forbes would act as escrow agent. (Incidentally, as Google search for “Opus Carbon Registry” reveals that the company has no internet presence outside the comments section on REDD-Monitor.)
A very similar scam appeared earlier this week on REDD-Monitor – in that case, the scammers claimed to be from “Blackrock Commodities”. There is a real company called Alexander Forbes, but it has nothing to do with the fake websites that the scammers set up.
“Barry” wrote that he had “correspondence from Opus on paper as thick as card!”. Unfortunately he didn’t respond to my request for scanned copies of these documents.
In early March, “Mick Hirst” left a comment: “I have just been contacted by George Anderson from Opus Capital 02071646453 claiming they can sell my Carbon Credits.”
A search for the phone number 02071646453 leads us to a website for Opus Capital: www.opuscapitalltd.com. But when we click on it we end up here:
That is exactly where the “Blackrock Commodities” scam website took us. The website opuscapitalltd.com was registered (anonymously) on 4 January 2016 – the same date as the fake “Blackrock Commodities” and “alexander Forbes” websites were registered.
An archived version of the fake Opus Capital website reveals lies and nonsense. Like this:
Founded in 1962 and a public company since 1983, Opus Capital is a diversified financial services holding company with subsidiaries engaged primarily in investment and financial planning.
Here’s a screenshot of the fake Opus Capital website:
And here’s the real Opus Capital website, which doesn’t seem to be quite finished. Maybe the company’s director, Paul Seakens, has too much on his plate at the moment.
One of the services that Opus Capital offered was to assist small companies to list on GXG Markets Exchange. Here’s how Paul Murphy at FT Alphaville describes GXG:
GXG began life as Dansk Autoriseret Markedsplads back in 1998. Five years ago it was acquired by Sweden’s GXG Global Exchange Group, with Carl Johan Hogbom, formerly the CEO of the OMX Stockholm Exchange, becoming chairman.
And then, at some point, for some reason, while presenting itself as “the premier stock exchange and growth market for SMEs in the European Union,” the exchange went mad — welcoming all passing carbon fraudsters, rare earth mystics and boiler room operators to use its cheap and largely rule-free platform.
A few, legitimate companies also listed, attracted by the low cost and rapid admission service. But GXG was first and foremost a gift for scamsters.
The Danish financial regulator, Finanstilsynet, finally closed down GXG Markets on 18 August 2015 – after Richard Smith exposed what was happening in a series of brilliant posts on Naked Capitalism.
Here’s Opus Capital advertising its services on GXG Markets (click the image to go to an archived version of the website):
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.
Despite the warning, the FCA took no further action against Carbon Neutral Investments. Maybe it’s time for the FCA to take a somewhat closer look at the company’s activities under its new name, Opus Capital Limited.
Opus Capital and Advanced Global Trading
In December 2011, Carbon Neutral Investments sold carbon credits to Vodafone Mclaren Mercedes making it “the world’s first carbon neutral Formula 1 team”. Two years later, Richard Smith wrote about this deal on Naked Capitalism. In his final paragraph he mentioned Advanced Global Trading:
Incidentally it’s not just Sauber and McLaren who might find themselves in damage limitation mode if this lot blows up. The Lotus Formula One Team must already be regretting their decision to partner with Advanced Global Trading of Dubai, another carbon credits boiler room connected with Carbon Neutral Investments. More on that, in our next.
That was the only mention of Advanced Global Trading in that particular post. Note that Smith is not suggesting any link between CNI/Opus and Advanced Global Trading other than they both have sponsorship deals with Formula 1 racing teams. Nevertheless, Gemmax Solutions felt it necessary to respond:
There is no connection between Opus Capital Limited and Advanced Global Trading Dubai other than the provision of clearing services by the former to the latter.
Advanced Global Trading operated out of Dubai, selling carbon credits as investments and getting sponsorship deals like the one with Lotus F1 Team. AGT promised investors they would earn 30% per annum. It was a scam, of course.
Providing “clearing services” for a scam as large as AGT is bad enough. But here’s a strange thing. A quick look at Companies House reveals three Opus Capital companies, which all previously had the words “AGT Investments” in their names. Paul Seakens, director of Carbon Neutral Investments and Opus Capital, is director of all three companies:
And here’s another. But this time it’s not just “AGT” in the company’s name:
Opus Capital and Thorn Medical
Thorn Medical is a healthcare company, founded in 2014 by Jack Kaye, a telecoms entrepreneur. The company is planning a £350 million stock market listing this year. Thorn Medical has approval for stem cell research and treatment on humans at its research facilities in the Bahamas. (Regulations on stem cell research are considerably more relaxed in the Bahamas than in the EU.)
In an article about the company’s proposed stock market launch, the Sunday Telegraph mentions that “EY was recently taken on as an adviser to Thorn as the firm looks to expand in emerging markets.”
What a pity the Sunday Telegraph‘s journalist didn’t think to ask a few questions about the other firm acting as Thorn Medical’s Corporate Advisers (click on the image for a more readable version):
Opus Capital has been Thorn Medical’s Corporate Adviser since December 2014.
REDD-Monitor sent the following questions to Thorn Medical and asked for an on the record response. I look forward to posting Thorn Medical’s response in full when it arrives:
- How did Thorn Medical come to appoint Opus Capital and what due diligence did your company carry out before appointing Opus Capital in October 2014?
- Are you aware of that Opus Capital’s director Paul Seakens has been involved with several companies selling carbon credits to retail investors? Or that last month, 19 of these companies were closed down in the public interest in the High Court? And that there are petitions to wind up 10 more – including Opus Capital?
- Please explain what services Opus Capital has provided for Thorn Medical.
- In the press release about Opus Capital’s appointment, Dr Bashir, Thorn Medical’s CEO said “We are delighted to appoint Opus Capital to assist us in our plans to list on the London Stoc” [sic – the press release just stops at that point].
In October 2015, Thorn Medical signed a memorandum of understanding with EY. The press release about this states: “the professional services firm [EY] will support Thorn Medical’s IPO on the London Stock Exchange and its planned USA Nasdaq listing”.
Which sounds as though EY has taken over from Opus Capital. Does Opus Capital still have a role with Thorn Medical, and if so, what does that role involve? Why was it necessary to appoint EY to do the job that Opus Capital was supposedly already carrying out?
UPDATE – 30 March 2016: Yesterday, Henry Gewanter, Managing Director at Positive Profile Limited, Thorn Medical’s PR company, replied to REDD-Monitor’s questions. His response is available here. The headline of this post has been edited to reflect the fact that Opus Capital is no longer acting as Thorn Medical’s advisor.