By Chris Lang
Like many other people who were tricked into buying carbon credits as investments, Craig Jamieson found out too late that the carbon credits are near-worthless. He wants to publicise what happened to prevent others from being taken in and in the hope of getting justice.
Jamieson got in touch with a company called Eco Business Management after he was told about them by a friend who had also invested. On its website, the company claimed to be “an organisation that treasures its role as a leader in the carbon finance industry”.
David White, a broker at Eco Business Management, sold Jamieson a first batch of carbon credits in January 2013. The credits came from a wind farm project called Caprock Wind Ranch in New Mexico, USA.
Jamieson told REDD-Monitor that White “constantly alluded” to the fact that Google had invested US$200 million in a wind farm in Texas.
White explained to Jamieson that Eco Business Management bought carbon credits from regulated companies: Eco Asian Consulting in Singapore and SJL Risk in the UK. White wrote that when requested Eco Business Management would sell the carbon credits and deposit the money in Jamieson’s bank account within three weeks.
Once he’d bought the carbon credits, Jamieson received documents from Eco Business Management telling him how much his “investment” had increased in value.
White persuaded Jamieson to invest in two more projects: Konaseema Gas Power, India; and Salto Pilao Hydropower, Brazil. In total, he handed over £20,000. Jamieson told REDD-Monitor that,
“David White’s emotional manipulation was very effective. He talked about how he recently lost his father and how he was going home to spend time with his family. He kept mentioning the satisfaction he got from helping small investors like myself rather than other millionaire investors which he looked after. It built trust which made you feel comfortable about investing.”
But then White made another offer of £20,000 worth of carbon credits from an Indonesian project run by MedcoEnergi Associated Gas Recovery and Utilisation. With a 30% profit within three weeks, it sounded too good to be true. Jamieson’s suspicions grew when Eco Business Management warned against “disclosure to anyone of the details of the transaction”.
Things fall apart
On 8 April 2014, Jamieson contacted Action Fraud and the Financial Conduct Authority. By coincidence, six days earlier, the Financial Conduct Authority had put out a warning about Eco Asian Consulting which was “providing financial services or products in the UK without [FCA] authorisation”. Eco Asian Consulting had provided Jamieson with the credits from the Caprock Wind Ranch project.
Jamieson told Eco Business Management to sell his carbon credits. He was told that, “this is not a ‘good time'”. Jamieson said he would visit the Eco Business Management office, but was told that, “the offices are closing down”, “the company is in a state of flux”, and “we will be in touch”.
White told Jamieson he was “going away” for a few weeks, to work on other projects. White handed Jamieson over to someone called Philip Clarke, who told Jamieson that his carbon credits would soon be sold. No prizes for guessing that Clarke was lying.
Then Eco Business Management’s website disappeared. (It was last saved on archive.org in July 2013.) The company’s phone number didn’t work. Emails bounced.
Jamieson succeeded in contacting SJL Risk. This was the UK-based company that he had paid for the carbon credits from the Konaseema Gas Power and Salto Pilao Hydropower projects.
SJL Risk told Jamieson they had never heard of Eco Business Management and told him that his broker for these two projects was Abacus Advisory. That was the first Jamieson had heard of this company. Philip Clarke was the sole director of Abacus Advisory, until it went into voluntary liquidation in April 2014.
Clarke argues that Jamieson,
“quite simply bought investment products that do exist through a perfectly legal route and, now that the market has moved against him, is screaming fraud.“
But it turns out that Abacus Advisory’s London address was a virtual office, and the firm was actually based in the Marshall Islands.
In December 2013, Eco Business Management requested voluntary dissolution. On 14 January 2014, the Registrar of Companies gave notice that the company would be struck off the register on 14 April 2014, unless “cause is shown to the contrary”. The company is still registered at Companies House and has not gone into liquidation.
David White was the name of the broker who took £20,000 from Jamieson in exchange for near worthless carbon credits. White has a history of this sort of thing.
In January 2007, David White was one of the founders of a company called Montague Pitman, along with Richard Beese and Thomas Knifton. The company used high pressure sales tactics to sell penny shares to retail investors.
FT Alphaville wrote about the demise of Montague Pitman under the headline, “The little bucket shop of horrors“.
From Montague Pitman, Thomas Knifton (White’s co-director at Montague Pitman), moved on to Carbon Neutral Investments (now called Opus Capital Ltd). On his LinkedIn page, Knifton described his job with CNI from September 2010 to February 2012 as “Procurement of Carbon Credits for Offsetting purposes”. From October 2011 to January 2012, Knifton was a director of Carbon Neutral Investments.
David White also moved on to selling carbon credits. He and Richard Beese set up a company called BW Carbon. The company at one time shared the same address as MH Carbon. Now in liquidation, MH Carbon was one of the most notorious of the UK-based companies that sold carbon credits to retail investors.
MH Carbon was also one of Carbon Neutral Investment’s “Clearing Members“.
A company called Eco-Synergies Ltd was the exclusive supplier of carbon credits to MH Carbon. David White was at one time a shareholder in Eco-Synergies, along with Richard Beese and Gavin Manerowski (who was a director of MH Carbon).
In May 2014, the UK High Court shut down a web of carbon credit boiler room scams with Eco-Synergies at the centre. The companies scammed retail investors out of a total of £19 million. But no action was taken against the directors of the companies or against the brokers who sold the carbon credits.
Meanwhile, Craig Jamieson, along with plenty other retail investors scammed by boiler room brokers, is still looking for justice, and for his money back. “This is a scheme running into the millions, which has had a disastrous impact on so many people trying to make ethical investments,” he told the Sunday Herald. Jamieson has set up a website and is asking for others who are victims of this scam to get in touch via the website.
Jamieson told REDD-Monitor that he is “confused and disappointed by the reaction of the authorities”. He adds that “Action Fraud were only forced to engage with me after I lodged an official complaint.”
He thanks the Insolvency Service for being helpful and engaged, but says they are “dealing with very complex cases from an under-resourced position”.
“How can companies be officially registered with less difficulty than opening a bank account?” Jamieson asks. “Fraudsters then use these registered companies, along with fake addresses, as a means of projecting legitimacy to investors. This issue could be addressed with relative ease.”
And he asks why the fraudulent companies are only closed down, with no penalty for the people running the fraud.
“If you’re not punishing people for stealing and wrecking others’ lives, they’ll obviously keep doing it. This lack of action is not just heartbreaking and frustrating for those who have in many cases been defrauded of their entire life savings, it is an actual incentive to criminals.”