in Papua New Guinea, Switzerland, UK

Some questions for Stephen Hooper about the “carbon benefit units” sold from his April Salumei REDD project in Papua New Guinea

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April Salumei is a REDD project in Papua New Guinea. Various companies, including Qantas, Eneco Energy Trade, and Norwegian supermarket chain Rema 1000, have bought carbon credits from the April Salumei REDD project. Should you so wish, you can buy carbon credits from the project on the USAID-funded website Stand for Trees.

The project is certified by Verified Carbon Standard. And it was validated under the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance Standards from 2011 to 2016. So far so good. Or bad, given that carbon offsets allow climate pollution to continue, thus dooming the planet to climate chaos.

But there’s another side to the April Salumei story. It’s one that REDD-Monitor has written about more than once. Here are the most recent two posts:




To cut a (very long) story short, here’s what happened. In 2011, a Swiss company called World Markets AG bought five million “carbon benefit units” from the April Salumei project. They were called “carbon benefit units” because at that time the project was not certified by VCS.

World Markets explained in a 2013 “Short Company Presentation”,

Each CBU representing 1 tonne CO2e will later be exchanged for 1 ex-ante Verified Carbon Unit, representing 1 tonne CO2e once the project is approved to Verified Carbon Standard (VCS).

As Natasha Loder, a journalist with The Economist, was at pains to point out in 2009, there’s nothing wrong with buying (or presumably selling) “carbon benefit units” from April Salumei:

If I as a customer, wanted to buy an option right now on the delivery of future certified credits from April Salome forest right now would that make me criminal or clever? It might be unwisely hasty but it would be legitimate. It might also be a good deal because the options I buy now could be worth a great deal more down the line.

Of course, there are other options in addition to the words “criminal”, “clever”, and “unwisely hasty” that Loder could have mentioned. “Scammed”, for example. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

World Markets didn’t wait around to see whether April Salumei’s “carbon benefit units” would be worth a great deal more at some point in the future. By the end of 2013, they’d sold them.

From World Markets in Switzerland, the “carbon benefit units” went to London, bought up by scam companies like London Carbon Neutral Ltd, World Future Limited, and Industry RE. These boiler rooms cold called people and persuaded them to buy the “carbon benefit units” as investments.

At each step in the chain, the price increased. World Markets bought the carbon credits for US$0.61 each and sold them for US$1.67 each. The boiler rooms sold them for around £7.50 each.

No doubt the boiler rooms didn’t bother explaining that they were selling “carbon benefit units” and not carbon credits. But even if the “carbon benefit units” had been exchanged for carbon credits (VCUs) before they reached the boiler rooms, they would still be worthless as investments. The judge who ordered World Future into liquidation said,

“I have seen evidence that [World Future’s customers] were being told that the carbon credits were a suitable investment which would go up in price. The true position is that the credits were not a suitable investment at all as they were a wasting asset unlikely ever to be profitable.”

REDD-Monitor was recently contacted by a group of over 150 people who were scammed into buying April Salumei “carbon benefit units”. Unfortunately, they have found out the hard way that the “carbon benefit units” were not a suitable investment at all. Between them, they have lost about £4.2 million.

This group of people has some questions for the April Salumei project developer Stephen Hooper of Rainforest Project Management Limited:

  1. The approx. no. of tonnes of April Salumei carbon credits owned by Pacific Forest Alliance (PFA)?
  2. The approx. no.of tonnes of April Salumei carbon credits sold or under control of third parties?
  3. Whether PFA have set up a website / sales portal that our group can use to sell all or part of our April Salumei carbon credits (subject to price) in an orderly fashion?
  4. If not,what are your suggestions for how our Group can achive an orderly sale of the April Salumei carbon credits?
  5. Whether there is any broker you can suggest for our group to achieve this goal?
  6. Due to the circumstances of our investments will you agree to prioritise the sale of our April Salumei carbon credits?

Despite sending these questions repeatedly to Hooper, they have received no replies to their questions.

REDD-Monitor also has a few questions for Hooper. REDD-Monitor sent the following questions to Hooper today. I look forward to posting Hooper’s replies to both sets of questions in full and unedited.

  1. Do you feel any responsibility for the fact that people have invested their savings in worthless “carbon benefit units” from your April Salumei REDD project?
  2. In the CCBA project validation report, the address of your company, Rainforest Project Management Limited, is given as PO BOX 3321, Drake Chambers, Road Town, Tortola, BVI (British Virgin Islands). Where is Rainforest Project Management Limited registered? Could you please send copies of the company’s annual reports since the April Salumei project started on 22 May 2009.
  3. A draft Project Design Document dated 30 December 2008 for the April Salumei project states that, “Earthsky Ltd has initiated and managed the avoided deforestation project in Papua New Guinea”. Earth Sky’s address is given as Drake Chambers, Road Town, Tortola, British Virgin Islands – the same address as Rainforest Project Management Limited. What is the relationship between Earth Sky and Rainforest Project Management Limited? Is the PNG government REDD agreement with Earth Sky or with Rainforest Project Management?
  4. Please explain the difference (or relationship) between Rainforest Project Management Limited, which appears on CCBA and VCS documents, and Pacific Forest Alliance, which is the company named on the April Salumei project website.
  5. In 2011, the April Salumei REDD project issued “carbon benefit units”. Please describe exactly what a “carbon benefit unit” is. How many “carbon benefit units” did the project sell, and how much money did this raise? What happened to this money?
  6. A company in Switzerland called World Markets bought five million “carbon benefit units” from the April Salumei REDD project. Two years later World Markets sold the “carbon benefit units” at a profit of more than US$5 million. From December 2011 to March 2013 you were a director of World Markets. Were you involved in the sale of the “carbon benefit units”? How much did you personally profit from World Markets’ sale of “carbon benefit units”?
  7. In July 2011, Sean Lewis, who is listed as the representative of Earth Sky in the April Salumei draft Project Design Document, was appointed chairman of World Markets. Why did two key people behind a REDD project in Papua New Guinea suddenly turn up on the board of a company in Switzerland – a company that happened to be buying (and subsequently selling) “carbon benefit units” from the project?
  8. Earthsky Limited appears in the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists’ Offshore Leaks Database (click on the image for a larger version):

    Karl Preisig and Graham Taylor were directors of World Markets, and of Earthsky Limited. As mentioned above, Sean Lewis was listed as a “representative” of Earthsky in the April Salumei draft Project Design Document, and was chairman of World Markets. ICIJ lists him as a director and shareholder of Earthsky.

    Earthsky Limited was registered in the UK on 26 July 2001. Earthsky was one of eight linked companies ordered into liquidation in November 2015 in the High Court in London, following an investigation by the Insolvency Service.

    In a statement, the Insolvency Service explains why Earthsky was ordered into liquidation:

    The company’s accounts filed at Companies House disclose that the company has achieved no turnover since its incorporation but nevertheless record that it has been involved in some form of significant business leading to it reportedly having cash at bank of some £17 million in 2004 increasing to some £535 million in 2006 and some £613.5 million in 2011. No explanation has been provided as to the activities giving rise to such cash balances nor a $1 billion trust agreement nor a $30 million bond.

    The grounds for winding up the company are that its accounts filed at Companies House are false and misleading and it has failed to maintain, preserve and/or deliver up adequate accounting records and failed to fully co-operate with the investigation.

    Do you have any comment on Earthsky’s business, where the money came from, and where it ended up? How did Earthsky come to be involved in the April Salumei REDD project?

  9. The “carbon benefit units” were registered on something called the IFIT Registry. The only other carbon project listed on this registry is the Lake Murray project in Papua New Guinea – a project also run by Pacific Forest Alliance. Apparently IFIT has more than 80 million “carbon benefit units” on its registry. Have all these “carbon benefit units” been sold? How many of those “carbon benefit units” were from April Salumei, and how many from Lake Murray?
  10. IFIT and World Markets seem to be closely related. The two companies share an address in Zurich. Rolf H Küng is on the board of both companies. Can you explain why you chose to register “carbon benefit units” from April Salumei on the IFIT Registry?
  11. IFIT’s Purchase Application Form states that,

    Each “Carbon Benefit Unit” (CBU) representing 1 tonne CO2e will be exchanged for 1 ex-ante “Verified Carbon Unit” (VCU) representing 1 tonne CO2e once project is approved to Verified Carbon Standard (VCS)

    The April Salumei REDD project was validated under the VCS system in October 2013. Since then, however, the “carbon benefit units” have not been exchanged for VCUs. Why not?

  12. The Lake Murray REDD project has not been certified by either VCS or CCBA. How many “carbon benefit units” have been sold from this project? What is the current status of the Lake Murray REDD project? Does the Lake Murray REDD project overlap the Kamula Doso REDD project area?
  13. In 2016, April Salumei sold more than 130,000 carbon credits (VCUs). So far this year, the project has sold more than 100,000 carbon credits. How much money did this raise? Is the REDD project financing itself from sales of carbon credits?
  14. April Salumei’s validation under the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance Standards expired in June 2016. Why have you not renewed the validation?

 


PHOTO Credit: Stephen Hooper, Pacific Forest Alliance speaks to RTCC at the 2015 Carbon Expo in Barcelona.
 

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18 Comments

  1. How do | sell my carbon credits, been defrauded by a company called Green Trade, but my units are with a company called Oakmount, they say they do not deal with the side off things, I put £268,000 in back in 2013 they promised me high returns but this turned out not to be the case.

    I put the money in, in three stages as listed below:-

    Date Amount Purchase Price C.E.R.s Sale Price Expected Sale Date

    24/04/2013 £ 12600 £ 3.15 4000 for some reason I did not get price
    07/06/2013 £ 144000 £ 3.00 48000 £ 4.95 21/11/13
    08/08/2013 £ 112000 £ 3.20 35000 £ 5.45 19/11/13

    Total £ 268600 87000

  2. If Mr. Hooper really has sold these CBUs to companies such as Quantas and Rema 1000, why is he unable to sell the CBUs held by small investors who wish to divest?
    Why, when investors ask him to sell, does he say that we are putting his project in danger of being struck off?
    Why is he so unwilling to help?

  3. @Lee Goldthorpe – I’m very sorry to hear about this. I wrote about several companies with Oakmount in their names here:

    Oakmount Management Partners, Oakwood Financial Management, Oakmount and Partners, Baron Traders, Emerald Knight, Oakmount Global Management, MH Carbon, DMD Media, Morgan Forbes, and Centrium Capital Markets: A network of scam companies

    I don’t know whether your “Oakmount” was one of these companies.

    I’m afraid the bad news is that there is no secondary market for carbon credits. In any case, as I mentioned in the post above, the judge who ordered World Future into liquidation said, “the credits were not a suitable investment at all as they were a wasting asset unlikely ever to be profitable.” (Wasting asset means that it declines in value over time.)

    In the post above, I linked to this article:

    Guest Post: The carbon credits sold to private individuals as investments are worthless

    I know this is bad news – but it’s better than being given false hope (which is most likely to come from another scammer).

    In November 2013, I wrote a post with some advice for people who have been scammed:

    What to do if you’ve been scammed into buying carbon credits as an investment

    I know you’ve probably done most of the things on this list, but it’s worth going through each one carefully. Were any of the companies involved in selling you carbon credits registered with the Financial Services Authority?

  4. @Teak Tree – Thanks for this question.

    Qantas, Eneco Energy Trade and Rema 1000 bought carbon credits (not CBUs) from the April Salumei REDD project.

    “Carbon benefit units” and carbon credits are two different things.

    Before a project can sell carbon credits, the project has to be verified by a third party. Before being verified, the project could forward sell options as Natasha Loder explained back in 2009. That’s sort of what Hooper did with his “carbon benefit units”.

    (I won’t go into the discussion about the fact carbon credits are based on a concept that doesn’t exist – additionality – thus making carbon credits a complete nonsense. If you’re curious, Larry Lohmann explains it succinctly here.)

    As far as I’m aware, “carbon benefit units” are unique to Stephen Hooper’s two REDD projects in Papua New Guinea. Hooper sold “carbon benefit units” before the projects were verified under the Verified Carbon Standard system. He sold them with a promise that he would exchange the “carbon benefit units” for carbon credits (Verified Carbon Units) once the projects were verified.

    April Salumei was validated under the VCS system in October 2013, but as far as I’m aware the “carbon benefit units” have still not been exchanged for VCUs. (See question 11.)

    The Lake Murray project has not been verified under the VCS system. (See question 12.)

  5. Yes the custodian company was Oakmount and Partners they were originally based at Canary Wharf, But I do know they have moved now. It was two people one called Glenn King and the other called David, their email was admin@oakmountglobal.com Glenn’s number is 07947431644.

    They title their selves as Intermediary & Custodian Services.

  6. Your question 6 is particularly poignant for me. I didn’t know this. Stephen Hooper – where is our money?

    R-M: This comment has been edited because it did not conform to REDD-Monitor’s comments policy.

  7. So does this mean there is something you can do to help me?

  8. @Lee Goldthorpe – Did you read my previous response?

    I can only repeat myself. As I pointed out, this is bad news. There is no secondary market for carbon credits. They are not a suitable investment. Carbon credits are a wasting asset (they decline in value over time). The carbon credits sold to private investors as investments are worthless.

    Have you worked through the list of things to do if you’ve been scammed?

    And finally, a question: Were any of the companies involved in selling you carbon credits registered with the Financial Services Authority (now called the Financial Conduct Authority)?

  9. No they were not, but I did not even realise I had been scammed until I received a letter from A ction Fraud, London Police were involved and I was supposed to attend a court case in Spain, but then a while later London Police rang me and said the judicial system had changed in Spain and that the case had been thrown back over hare.

    Glenn King said for quite a few months that he could sell them for me, then all of a sudden emailed me to say he had to return all the clients documents to them for them to sell their selves, that he could no longer do it for some reason.

  10. Thank you very much for your reply. I wonder if you have ever received a reply from Mr. Hooper? Can you speculate why he did not exchange the CBUs for verified carbon units for small investors but would seemingly have done this for a portion, in order to be able to sell to Qantas, Eneco Energy Trade and Rema? Does that suggest it is not an out and out scam, but that Mr. Hooper somehow lacks the will to help investors?

  11. @Teak Tree – Thanks for this. I haven’t received a reply from Hooper. If/when I do, I’ll post it in full and unedited, as I wrote in the post above. Hooper did not exchange carbon benefit units for verified carbon units before selling them to Qantas et al. The VCUs sold to Qantas were never CBUs – they were carbon credits generated by the April Salumei REDD project, after it was validated by Environmental Services Inc.

  12. @Lee Goldthorpe – I’m not a financial expert or a legal expert. I run a website about forests, climate change, and investment scams (mostly relating to sales of carbon credits as investments – if somewhat tangentially at times).

    I’ve written about one of the companies that scammed you. I’ve suggested a list of things you could do. There is no way of selling your carbon credits because they are worthless.

    If you send more details about how you were scammed (please send an email to reddmonitor@gmail.com) I can write a post about your particular case. That will not help you get your money back, but it could help other people avoid being taken in by similar scams.

  13. There is another point though that carbon credits were initiated by the UK government and we first got some good returns, but the government then started putting difficulties in place related to those very same carbon credits so people had to jump through hoops and were unable to do justice to those who had the credits. I went through well established agents who were dealing with responsible people but it only takes the one person I the line who is not that way inclined for call the cards to fall down. My money was held in Escrow and that itself should have given some security, only to find that the company, well knows and with a good name had not informed the government that they were acting as Escrow agents and did not have the authority to do so. But these directors and those knowingly doing thing illegally will not lose their houses so that monies can be returned. If a government suggest we do something and they back it and put money into us doing it, it is not surprising that honest businesses do not see a scam when nit is staring right at them, so how on earth can their clients every know. No amount of advice will protect us from that.

  14. @Penelope – Thanks for this comment. I’m finding it a little difficult to follow your argument though. I have a few questions, if you don’t mind:

    1. Did you buy “carbon benefit units” generated by the April Salumei REDD project as an investment?

    2. Please explain what you mean when you write “carbon credits were initiated by the UK government”.

    3. How did you get “good returns” on carbon credits? Did you manage to sell them? If so, to whom?

    4. What “difficulties” did the government put in place? What “hoops” did people have to jump through? Who were the people jumping through these hoops?

    5. What do you mean when you write that people “were unable to do justice to those who had the credits”?

    6. What was the name of the “established agents” that sold you carbon credits as an investment?

    7. Which company held your money in escrow?

    8. Who told you that the UK government suggested that people should buy carbon credits as an investment? As far as I’m aware, the government has never provided this advice.

  15. Stepen Hooper only wants to talk on the phone and not commit to putting facts in writing.He told me one year ago he was selling around $ 200,000 a year of A.S. Credits,but that amount was barely covering overheads.He was to set up a website for small Investors to sell their Carbon,
    but this never happened.
    April Saluemi project is tarnished all down to Stephen Hooper lack of courtesy to answer questions and to engage with small Investors

  16. Our investor group does not understand why Stephen Hooper is silent and refuses to reply to questions.

    I believe he has been in hospital. Perhaps he is unwell – or concealing something? It is not a lot to ask that he responds to investors’ concerns. Many are also unwell from the stress – and elderly, having seen their life savings disappear, due to the failure to convert CBUs to carbon credits. Why????

    Interestingly, in the photo above, Mr. Hooper very much resembles Ian Hamilton!

  17. Thanks Chris for your work in piecing this together as it is a complicated scam. Clearly the losses are important, however, I may live with them better if I understood that they were having some positive socio environmental benefit if at an eye-wateringly inflated price. I had assumed that as the project had been approved by the REDD auditors they would. However, after reading this and seeing that the CBUs were not converted does this leave the potential that they were not offset against the accreditation and just syphoned off as cash? Are you able to explain what power REDD might have in this situation?