Peters & Peters

Former directors sentenced to 11 years’ imprisonment for fraudulent green investment scheme

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Key facts:

In May 2022, two former directors of Global Forestry Investments, Andrew Nathaniel Skeene and Junie Conrad Omari Bowers were found guilty at Southwark Crown Courton three counts of conspiracy to defraud and one count of misconduct in the course of winding up a company. The SFO has stated that over 2,000 victims were deceived by the fraudulent scheme.

The SFO launched its investigation into Global Forestry Investments in 2015. The scheme claimed to offer investments in three Brazilian teak tree plantations that the directors claimed were well-managed, secure and ethical investments that would help protect the Amazon and support local communities. The scheme took in approximately £37 million in investments. The SFO pressed charges against the pair in 2019.

In parallel, the Insolvency Service (IS) opened a probe into the company following its compulsory liquidation, when it owed at least £2.1 million to creditors. The investigations into the scheme found that investors were that investors were told their cash was being use to purchase teak plots. However, £13 million from the sale of the plots was paid into the directors’ bank accounts and the majority of investors received no money after the first year of their investment.

The SFO’s investigation involved requests for mutual legal assistance from the Brazilian Ministerico Publico Federal, including interviews of Brazilian witnesses. The case also involved the successful application to the Chancery Division by the Official Receiver for permission to provide the SFO with affidavits and documents provided by one of the directors as part of disqualification proceedings.

In June 2022, the pair were sentenced to 11 years’ imprisonment. When handing down the sentences, the judge highlighted the “serious detrimental impact” the schemes had on investors, including some victims being prevented from retiring and suffering “prolonged distress and mental anguish”. The judge imposed 10-year director disqualification orders on both individuals, to run concurrent to existing orders. Confiscation proceedings will take place at a later date.

Source(s):

SFO news releases of May 2022, June 2022, case update and judgment of the Chancery Division

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