in Brazil, Ireland, UK

Irish tax office moves to shut down Celestial Green Ventures

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on StumbleUpon

Celestial Green VenturesCelestial Green Ventures is an Irish carbon trading company, registered in November 2010. In 2011, the company claimed to have carbon rights to 20 million hectares of Brazil’s rainforest. The company aimed to become the “leading global supplier of REDD carbon credits in the Voluntary Carbon Market”.

In June 2011, Celestial Green Ventures forward sold one million carbon credits to Industry RE, a London-based company. A boiler room operation called Emerald Knight scammed retail investors into buying the carbon credits as investments.

Two years later, the High Court ordered Industry RE into liquidation.

Meanwhile, Brazil’s National Indian Foundation, FUNAI, declared that the carbon contracts Celestial Green Ventures had drawn up with Brazil’s indigenous peoples were “not valid”.

Reuters reported in December 2012 that a federal attorney in Rondonia had filed a lawsuit to cancel a contract signed by Celestial Green Ventures LLC and the Awo Xo Hwara indigenous community. The Irish Times reported shortly afterwards that Celestial Green Ventures was “suspending agreements it has with indigenous tribes in the Amazon forest following legal moves by the Brazilian authorities”.

In 2011, Celestial Green Ventures listed on the Frankfurt stock exchange. In its prospectus, the company looked forward to generating more than US$600 million profits the next five years from sales of carbon offsets to companies. Celestial Green Ventures’ share price plummeted, and by 2013 it was delisted.

In 2012, Celestial Green Ventures listed 16 REDD projects on its website:

Projects

Today, Celestial Green Ventures’ website lists only one project: Trocano Araretama REDD+ Conservation Project. The project covers 1.3 million hectares, with 107 communities living in the project area.

Despite the difficulties it has run into in the past few years, Celestial Green Ventures hasn’t lost its optimism. The company claims that more than 37 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions have been avoided by the Trocano Araretama project since 2011. Here’s a counter from the company’s website:

CO2e

Unfortunately, the Trocana Araretama project website seems to have disappeared.

Tax troubles

In 2012, Celestial Green Ventures reported a €1 million loss. The following year, a €1.6 million pre-tax profit. Earlier this month, Michael Gladney, Collector General at the Revenue Commissioners (Ireland’s taxman), submitted a petition to the High Court to have Celestial Green Ventures wound up. The petition is due to be heard on 4 April 2016.

In May 2015, the Irish Times reported that a note in Celestial Green Ventures’ accounts stated that the company “is in dispute with an unidentified former customer, now in liquidation, concerning the return of a deposit of €1.9 million”. Celestial Green Ventures stated that, “The company has rejected this claim, has taken legal advice, and is of the view that no provision is necessary.”

Natural Capital Credits

Celestial Green Ventures’ voluntary carbon credits are not certified by the Verified Carbon Standard or the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Standard. Instead, the company sells “natural capital credits”, certified by the Natural Forest Standard. Here’s how the Natural Forest Standard explains what natural capital credits are:

Natural Capital Credits are unique to the Natural Forest Standard as the resulting certificates generated from successfully validated and verified NFS projects. As a result of this, NCCs inherently exhibit carbon, social and biodiversity features that together equate to a Natural Capital Credit.

Natural Forest Standard

The Trocano Araretama REDD project is the only project to have been verified and validated under the Natural Forest Standard. The Natural Forest Standard was developed in 2011 by Ecosystem Certification Organisation and Ecometrica. The Natural Forest Standard Registry is administered by Ecosystem Certification Organisation.

Ecosystem Certification Organisation was registered in the UK in June 2011. Victoria Kelly, a relative of Ciaran Kelly, is director of Ecosystem Certification Organisation. She’s also a director of the Natural Forest Standard. And Ciaran Kelly was a shareholder in the Natural Forest Standard, until March 2015, when he transferred his shares to Victoria Kelly.

The Natural Forest Standard’s office is in East Sussex (Third Floor, Map House, 34-36 St Leonards Road, Eastbourne, East Sussex, BN21 3UT):

2016-03-31-163837_1680x1026_scrot

Ecosystem Certification Organisation and the Natural Forest Standard shared the same address until recently.

If you look very closely at the windows on the third floor of Map House, you’ll see the logo of an accounting firm called MDJ Services Limited. Until 31 December 2015, David Jenkins of MDJ Services Ltd, was director of both Natural Forest Standard and Ecosystem Certification Organisation. Jenkins is still listed as Finance Director, on Ecosystem Certification Organisation’s “Governance Board” and on the Natural Forest Standards’ Governance and Secretariat.

Here is Ecosystem Certification Organisation’s flash new office in Polegate, East Sussex (Unit A6, Chaucer Business Park, Dittons Road, Polegate, East Sussex, England, BN26 6QH – an address it shares with MDJ Services Ltd and several other companies):

2016-03-31-182254_1680x1026_scrot

Natural Capital Wealth

A company called Natural Capital Wealth is currently marketing Celestial Green Ventures’ Natural Capital Credits. Here’s a company brochure, aimed at companies, encouraging them to buy Natural Capital Credits.

Natural Capital Wealth was registered in Ireland in November 2012. John Russell-Murphy is a director of the company. The website was registered in November 2012 in Murphy’s name, with an address for Natural Capital Wealth in Eastbourne, East Sussex.

One of Jonny Murphy’s other companies is Grosvenor Park Intelligent Investments, also from Eastbourne, East Sussex. For about four months in 2011, the company was registered as an appointed representative of Stonebridge Mortgage Solutions Ltd with the Financial Conduct Authority. Since then, Grosvenor Park Intelligent Investments has not been registered with the FCA.

According to a July 2012 article in the Financial Times, Grosvenor Park Intelligent Investments was offering a three-year investment scheme paying a “fixed return” of 145%.

Murphy told the Financial Times that his company was buying repossessed houses from banks in Detroit to refurbish them and sell them at a profit:

“Mortgage costs are only about 25 per cent of rental values in Detroit, so people are desperate to get back on the housing ladder. The firm has done 400 properties so far and is looking at a further 10,000 over the next three years.”

Of course, this all sounded too good to be true. And a couple of years later, the Guardian was reporting on foreign investors being scammed into buying property in Detroit. Reuters joined in at the end of 2015.

Grosvenor Park Intelligent Investments also offered investments in bamboo, warehouse storage pods and luxury Caribbean resorts.

In October 2012, Grosvenor Park Intelligent Investments ran an interview with Ciaran Kelly on its website. The company asked, “Could you tell us about investing in the voluntary carbon market?” Kelly answered that due diligence is important and added,

They are a good investment and have been for a long time, and investor confidence is ever-increasing, at the premium end of the market. REDD+ credits for example have shown price increase year on year, and have seen the popularity in these projects increase, predominantly due to the additional features which are inherent to them, such as Conservation, Biodiversity Protection and Socio-economic Investment. Many investors are increasingly searching for a unique, financially viable and environmentally sustainable alternative, which is what CGV has identified, and is now providing to the market; in the form of NCCs developed under a REDD+ methodology.

As many retail investors who were scammed into buying carbon credits found out the hard way, this is extremely misleading advice. Carbon credits are a wasting asset, not an investment. The value of a carbon credit falls over time. In any case, there is no secondary market for voluntary carbon credits.
 

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on StumbleUpon

Leave a Reply

  1. Dear REDD Monitor,
    Until today I had been unaware of your blog site, I have been made aware of your site due to a post you made yesterday, 31st March 2016, which includes information regarding Ecosystem Certification Organisation Ltd and the Natural Forest Standard. I would like to clarify some points.

    Ecosystem Certification Organisation Ltd (ECO Ltd) is a private company limited by guarantee without share capital (not-for-profit organisation) that acts as the governing and administration body of the Natural Forest Standard. Ecosystem Certification Organisation Ltd has no shareholders and has only had 3 board members. The Natural Forest Standard is a set of voluntary carbon requirements for large-scale REDD+ projects.

    ECO Ltd is solely responsible for the administration of the Natural Forest Standard. The Standard has an independent Technical Panel which is responsible for reviewing and approving all the technical data, methods and verification documentation of the Standard; the Technical Panel members are engaged on an individual professional basis. The Natural Forest Standard also demands that the validation and verification process for NFS projects is carried out by independent, third-party validation and verification bodies (VVB) conforming to the ISO 14064-3 framework and that the VVB be ISO 14065 accredited.

    Mr David Jenkins, founder and Managing Director of MDJ Services Ltd Accountants has dedicated both experience and time to ECO Ltd since its formation. I am delighted for David and MDJ Services achievements and wish them great success in their new offices, which has come about from 30 years of hard work and service to the community; we are very thankful that he has continued to allow us to use his new facilities free of charge.

    As ECO Ltd is a not-for-profit organisation, there are no shareholders, only board members. Due to the company type registered with Companies House, it is not possible for anyone to be a shareholder of ECO Ltd. The Natural Forest Standard does not have shareholders, and indeed is not a company; it is a set of voluntary carbon requirements for large-scale REDD+ projects – http://www.naturalforeststandard.com/ – encompassing the carbon, social and biodiversity benefits of REDD+ projects into one combined and comprehensive certificate, named Natural Capital Credits.
    As a bit of background, the NFS uses a risk-based methodology to quantify the carbon benefits of projects, and encourages the use of geospatial data and GIS mapping for establishing the baseline and ongoing quantification for projects. Alongside the carbon element of projects, the NFS also inherently requires socio-economic benefits to be delivered via a Benefits Distribution Mechanism and biodiversity benefits to be quantified using the Normative Biodiversity Metric. As all 3 of these elements are inherent requirements of the Standard, for a project to achieve independent validation and verification they must successfully implement all of these combined elements; there is no opportunity under the NFS for projects to have one or two elements validated and/or verified – an all-encompassing approach must be taken to achieve independent validation and/or verification.

    The Trocano Araretama project was the pilot project for the Standard. The validation and verification of the Trocano Araretama Project was carried out by the independent, third-party Validation and Verification Body (VVB) Environmental Services Inc; a US-based organisation with over 25 years’ experience in the environmental consulting and carbon auditing, and all documentation relating to the validation and verification is freely available on the NFS website.

    As a Standard, we do not expect to attract a large number of projects due to its specific design and requirements; as an example the minimum project area required is 20,000 hectares and the Standard excludes commercial logging activities. No project is listed on the NFS project index until registration has been carried out, which can only be done following PIN submission. I would point out (as is on our website) that we do have a further environmentally-valuable and prestigious project listed, which is a collaborative project between Queen’s University Belfast, the Institute for Global Food Security, the Opwall Trust and Operation Wallacea Ltd. We also have 3 other projects are in the process of presenting their PIN documents for review.

    I trust this brings some clarity to the situation regarding the Ecosystem Certification Organisation Ltd and the Natural Forest Standard.

    Best Regards,
    Victoria Kelly
    Ecosystem Certification Organisation Ltd

  2. @Victoria Kelly – As I point out in the post above, Ecosystem Certification Organisation Ltd is a private company. The company number is 07669379, and you are the sole director.

    Your company isn’t exactly raking it in, as the accounts submitted on 30 June 2015 show:

    So far, we agree, then. But I have to disagree with you with your statement that “The Natural Forest Standard does not have shareholders, and indeed is not a company”.

    Natural Forest Standard Ltd was incorporated in the UK on 18 February 2014. The registered address is the same as Ecosystem Certification Organisation Ltd. The company number is 08899471. You are the only director:

    Natural Forest Standard Ltd has 120 shares, which in February 2015 were owned by Ciaran Kelly:

    In March 2015, Ciaran Kelly transferred his shares to you:

    And yes, two other projects in addition to Trocano Araretama are listed on the Natural Forest Standard website. But neither of them, as I pointed out in the post above, are verified and validated under the Natural Forest Standard.

  3. @Chris Lang – Thanks Chris, I see your point -Natural Forest Standard Ltd was indeed incorporated on 18th February 2014. However, it was not formed to trade, but to be held as a dormant company to purely secure the company name Natural Forest Standard Ltd, with the intention to allow Ecosystem Certification Organisation Ltd, at some point in the future, to have the option to trademark the name Natural Forest Standard.

    If you refer back to the Companies House filings for Natural Forest Standard Ltd, you will see from the filed accounts on 4th November 2015 that the company has been dormant since incorporation.

    With best regards,
    Victoria Kelly
    Ecosystem Certification Organisation Ltd

  4. One further request for Victoria Kelly.

    Please take time to go through the comments of this site and read stories of pensioners losing their savings in fraudulent schemes like the REDD+ schemes you promoted. Then ask yourself if this is what you would like to do with your life?