Yesterday, Márcio Meira, president of the Brazilian government’s National Indian Foundation (FUNAI), held a press conference at FUNAI’s headquarters in Brazilia. Point Carbon reported that “Brazil’s top judge may annul 30 deals that give investors legal title to carbon credits by avoiding deforestation in the Amazon.”
The press conference took place after reports in the Brazilian and international media about an Irish company called Celestial Green Ventures, that claims to have the carbon rights to an area of 20 million hectares of forest in the Brazilian Amazon.
Celestial Green Ventures has signed a contract with the Munduruku Indians in Para, under which the indigenous communities are promised a total of US$120 million over a 30 year period.
The Brazilian not-for-profit investigative journalism website Pública interviewed Meira the day before the press conference. In the interview Meira confirms that FUNAI was not aware of what happened in the meeting between Celestial Green Ventures and the Munduruku Indians on 12 September 2011. FUNAI was not present at the meeting. In the interview, Meira explained that,
“Funai knew that negotiations were underway, some indigenous people informed them. We advised them to be careful in relation to this harassment, we said do not sign the contract. Even so, some contracts were signed. But they have no legal validity. We advise companies, those credits that are in the voluntary market are not valid.”
Meira said that there are about 30 similar contracts, more than ten of which are with Celestial Green Investments.
In June 2011, Celestial Green Ventures forward sold one million uncertified, voluntary carbon credits to a London-based company called Industry RE. But the relationship between these two companies seems to go back to 2009, according to Industry RE’s website:
“In 2009 Industry Re partnered with Celestial Green as they entered into their first REDD project. This entailed the purchase of a majority share holding (97%) in a Brazilian company – Capital First Management Bank Ltda, who own 10,000 hectares of tropical rainforest in the state of Rondonia, Brazil. CFMB also had a mining licence for the gold mining on 4,300 hectares of this pristine area of land. By purchasing this company, Celestial Green have let the mining licence lapse and intend to preserve this ecologically delicate area through obtaining carbon credits under the REDD guidelines.”
At this point, we have to take a detour, to Florida, where on 12 April 2007, a company called Pop Starz Publishing Corp. was incorporated. In June 2008, the company changed its name to Apollo Entertainment Group, Inc. The company’s business was pressing vinyl records and duplicating CDs and DVDs. On 19 October 2009, Manfred H. Wutzer bought 15,950,237 shares (or approximately 95.8%) from Michelle Tucker, who was at that time the company’s President, Chief Executive Officer, sole director and principal shareholder.
Wutzer decided to move the company in a different direction: mining and reforestation. On 10 December 2009, he changed the company’s name to Apollo Capital Group, Inc. And so we come back to the strange world of Celestial Green Ventures.
Celestial Investments was a wholly-owned subsidiary of Apollo Capital Group. The company was established in November 2008 and appears to have done little for its first year or so. Then, in 2010, Celestial Investments started selling and marketing carbon credits from Celestial Green’s Rondonia Project. By 31 July 2010, Celestial Investments had secured letters of intent “for the sale and purchase of 8,600,00 carbon credits on a ‘when issued basis’ at a total sales price of $45,150,000 or $5.25 per carbon credit,” according to the filing with the US Security and Exchange Commission. Celestial Investments would receive a 10% sales fee “as well as reimbursement of certain out of pocket expenses”.
Here’s how the filing with the SEC describes Celestial Green’s Rondonio project:
“The Rondonia Project is a REDD project planned to be conducted over approximately the next 30 years on approximately 15.2 million hectares of land which Celestial Green has owned or has leased in the Rondonia state of Central Brazil and surrounding regions. This amount of land will permit Celestial Green to generate 400 carbon credits per hectare (1 hectare = 2.4956 acres), resulting in excess of 6.0 billion carbon credits. If it successfully implements the Rondonia Project, Celestial Green will become a worldwide leader in the carbon credit market with potential revenues over the next 30 years of approximately $32.0 billion based on current market value of $5.25 per carbon credit.”
The filing with the SEC explains Industry RE’s role in marketing Celestial Green’s carbon credits:
“Other than Ciaran S. Kelly and Phillip Jett, its executive officers, Celestial Investments currently has no employees. It outsources its personnel needs to Industry RE pursuant to the agreement described in “Sales and Marketing Efforts” above.
By the way, Ciaran Kelly, the CEO of Celestial Green Ventures is also director of Apollo Capital Group. He was a director of Celestial Investments, until the company was dissolved two days ago. In addition, he is director of the following companies (there are more, but as far as I can tell have nothing to do with Kelly’s carbon trading activities):
- Carbon Assessment Project Limited. Kelly has been a director and company secretary since the company was incorporated on 18 January 2012.
- lic Investment and Commerce Limited. The company was incorporated 2 September 2008. Kelly became director on 30 August 2011. Manfred Wutzer, who bought into Apollo Capital Group in 2009, was a director from 2 September 2008 to 31 August 2011. The financial manager is Dieter Huhn, who is also chairman of Celestial Green Ventures. Dieter Huhn signed the company’s 2009 annual return (the company was dormant) and gave the same address in Eastbourne as Ecosystem Certification Organisation, the company that is developing the Natural Forest Standard for the validation and verification of Celestial Green Venture’s carbon credit projects. lic Investment and Commerce was dissolved on 27 September 2011.
- Celestial Green Ventures Public Limited Company. Kelly has been a director since the company was incorporated on 26 November 2010.
- Apollo Capital Ventures Public Limited Company. Kelly has been a director since the company was incorporated on 2 June 2010.
- Porterhouse Investment Holdings Limited. Kelly has been a director since the company was incorporated on 14 June 2010. He became company secretary on 6 December 2011.
- Bai Investments Limited. Kelly has been a director and company secretary since the company was incorporated on 13 May 2010.
- Celestial Green Energy Limited. Kelly has been a director since the company was incorporated on 4 September 2009.
- Celestial Green Limited. Kelly has been a director since the company was incorporated on 27 July 2009.
- Celestial Global. Kelly has been a director since the company was incorporated on 24 March 2009. Kelly signed the company’s 2010 annual return (the company was dormant) and gave the same address in Eastbourne as Ecosystem Certification Organisation, the company that is developing the Natural Forest Standard for the validation and verification of Celestial Green Venture’s carbon credit projects.
- Capital Celestial Resources Limited. Kelly has been a director since the company was incorporated on 9 March 2009.
- Celestial Incorporated Limite. Kelly has been a director since the company was incorporated on 12 January 2009.
- Celestial Assets UK Limited. Kelly has been a director since the company was incorporated on 12 January 2009.
- Hotel Refurbishments Limite. Kelly has been a director since the company was incorporated on 23 December 2008.
- Celestial Investments Limited. Kelly has been a director since the company was incorporated on 20 November 2008. The company filed a dissolution notice on 29 November 2011 and the company was struck off and dissolved on 13 March 2012.