“The Serious Fraud Office is an independent government department, operating under the superintendence of the Attorney General. Its purpose is to protect society by investigating and, if appropriate, prosecuting those who commit serious or complex fraud, bribery and corruption and pursuing them and others for the proceeds of their crime.”
In March 2013, Mark Hoskin, a Partner of Chartered Financial Planners, Holden & Partners wrote about carbon credit scams, under the headline, “The Voluntary Carbon Credit scam goes on”. The opening paragraph goes directly to the point:
The carbon credit floor introduced by the UK government in April 2013 of £16 does not apply to Voluntary Carbon Credits. Today I was called by a man who had invested £140,000 into Voluntary Carbon Credits. He wanted to know how to sell these now. There is no way to sell these. They are not investments. He has lost £140,000!
Hoskin’s blog post is an excellent overview of the carbon credit scam and includes some advice for people who have been scammed, and for people on the receiving end of phone calls offering investment advice:
[T]here is no secondary market in voluntary carbon credits. So if you have bought them already accept that you have lost all the money and register the tax loss. Voluntary carbon credits are not investments. After you have done this register a complaint with the SFO [Serious Fraud Office] and they might ask you for an interview. Do your civic duty, swallow your pride and stop these people and companies ringing up other unsuspecting people on the phone. Oh and then beware, your number is probably now in circulation for other scams. My client was then rung up by a supposed broker promising him listed shares at cut prices. This too was a fraud and he lost that money too. Beware… don’t trust people who ring you up on the phone to sell you ‘investments?’, even after you go to their supposed London offices to talk to them. If you do you will just be another person sucked in by a scam.
But when Holden wrote to the Serious Fraud Office, he got a reply from someone calling themselves “Intelligence Unit”, who told Holden that, “this is not a matter that falls within the remit of the Serious Fraud Office and no further action will be taken by us”:
Dear Mr Hoskin,
Thank you for contacting the SFO and for the information which you have provided.
After consideration of the information you have provided we have concluded that this is not a matter that falls within the remit of the Serious Fraud Office and no further action will be taken by us. That is not to say that the matter you have reported is any less important or any less distressing for you as a victim. It is essential that suspected offences are investigated expeditiously and our intention in informing you that this is not a matter for the SFO is to reduce the delay in it being brought to the attention of the appropriate organisation.
Should you wish, you may want to consider reporting this matter to Companies Investigations.
Companies Investigation Branch (CIB) which is part of the regulatory arm of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). Although CIB is located within the Insolvency Service, an Executive Agency of BIS, it is not limited to companies that have become insolvent. In fact, most of its investigations are into companies that are actively trading. Under the Companies Acts, CIB have the power to investigate companies and although they do not carry out criminal investigations their investigations may provide the basis for a subsequent criminal enquiry. The CIB would usually refer matters to us if on the information available to them they found that there is serious or complex fraud that the SFO should look at. Further details about the CIB are found on the following web page:
Please note that if you wish to complain about a company, the CIB’s preferred method is to complete the online Complaint Form which is found on the above web-site. Alternatively CIB’s contact details are as follows:
Companies Investigation Branch
21 Bloomsbury Street
London WC1B 3QW
Tel: 0845 601 3546 (Please note CIB cannot accept complaints by telephone)
You may also wish to contact the Financial Services Authority by completing their online form. Please refer to the attached link to their website.
You may wish to report this matter to Action Fraud – It is the UK’s national fraud reporting centre. It provides a central point of contact for information about fraud. The service is run by the National Fraud Authority – the government agency that helps to co-ordinate the fight against fraud in the UK. Their online fraud reporting service http://www.actionfraud.org.uk/report_fraud is available 24 hours a day, enabling you to report a fraud and find help and support. They also provide help and advice over the phone through the Action Fraud contact centre. You can talk to their fraud specialists by calling 0300 123 2040.
You can now forward on scam emails you receive to Action Fraud at firstname.lastname@example.org
No wonder Private Eye calls them the Serious Farce Office.
On 15 August 2013, I wrote to the Serious Farce Office to ask why carbon credit scams are not within the remit of the Serious Fraud Office, but answer came there none.