By Chris Lang
A company called Sterling and Bond is cold calling people to persuade them to convert their near-worthless carbon credits into a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) scheme. There’s an advanced fee involved. And it’s a ridiculously obvious scam.
Sterling and Bond put out a press release today, telling us that “VoIP services made a big name for themselves in 2013” and 2014 will be “Year of Business VoIP”.
In its emails to potential clients/suckers, Sterling and Bond offers “guaranteed” monthly rates of return of 14% over 18 months, and claims that a company called Voiptel International will sell the carbon credits, on condition that the client/sucker “matches the offer”.
So, if Voiptel International says it can sell the carbon credits for US$20,000, then the client/sucker hands over US$20,000. Sterling and Bond promises monthly dividends of US$311, or a total of US$5,598 “profit” over 18 months.
It doesn’t take a financial wizard to realise that even if Sterling and Bond keeps up the payments for 18 months, and then disappears, the client/sucker will be heavily out of pocket. Again.
Voiptel International claims that the company was formed in 2008. But the website was only registered in May 2014. The company gives two addresses on its website, one in Moscow and an “international address”: 20 Station Road, Cambridge CB1 2JD. A company called CB1 Business Cambridge offers virtual offices at this address.
Voiptel’s phone number is Sterling and Bond’s London number. There’s a note explaining that “Sterling and Bond are VOIPTEL’s master agent and handle all in-bound calls”.
Sterling and Bond
There is little information about Sterling and Bond available on the company’s website. According to the website, “Sterling & Bond is the trading name of SBB Commercial Brokers L.L.C”. But a search on Open Corporates gives no results:
Sterling and Bond claims to have offices in Dubai, London, Sydney and Hong Kong. The address in the City of London looks impressive, but it is just a serviced office. Hiring this type of virtual office is cheap.
The Sydney address is much more interesting: Level 11, 100 William Street, Sydney NSW 2000. Sterling and Bond shares this address with a company called Velvet Assets. The founder and director of Velvet Assets is Geoff Woodcock, who was previously the sales director for Capital Alternatives.
In February 2014, the Financial Conduct Authority won a case in the High Court in London against Capital Alternatives and several other firms. The judge ruled that the companies were illegally running collective investment schemes, offering farmland in Sierra Leone as an investment.
In April 2014, Woodcock, who had by then moved to Velvet Assets, contacted the Oakland Institute about an investment involving the same farmland in Sierra Leone.
Part of the Capital Alternatives network
One of the investment deals offered by Velvet Assets is a company in Liberia called African Lumber Ltd. Velvet Assets describes this as “a truly low-risk opportunity that will produce average annual returns of 19% per annum”.
Yesterday, REDD-Monitor received the following message:
Have you come across a company called African Lumber? I bought some investment into it through Regency Capital. Please let me know your thoughts.
Regency Capital was part of the Capital Alternatives network of companies, that the High Court ruled was illegally running collective investment schemes. The director of Regency Capital, Adam Conolly, was also a director of Global Eco Projects Ltd. As was John Childs, who was also a director of Reforestation Projects Ltd – another of the companies ruled to be illegally running collective investment schemes.
Reforestation Projects was previously called Capital Carbon Credits and one of its directors was Mark Ayres/Eyres. REDD-Monitor wrote about his hair-raising background in August 2013.
While the Financial Conduct Authority won in the High Court against Capital Alternatives and its network of companies, there were no sentences handed out for the people behind the companies. And as the comments following this post on REDD-Monitor reveal, they seemed to have moved on to the next scam.