By Chris Lang
Investigative journalist Antonio Papaleo has produced a short film exposing Conservation Central Network’s “Social Network Marketing” scheme. The film was funded by some of the people who fell for CCN’s claim that the company was offering a way to save forests and make money.
REDD-Monitor wrote about CCN two weeks ago, suggesting that if CCN’s money making deal sounds too good to be true, that’s probably because it is. You can read the reply from CCN’s Campbell Scott here.
More than €40 million “invested”
Papaleo reports that about 20,000 people in more than 100 countries have “invested” money with CCN. He calculates the total amount at more than €40 million, and adds that,
“This could be just a fraction of the total sum, if this shadowy and questionable business will be able to raise from worldwide households savings if their project to hit the Toronto Penny Share Stockmarket succeeds.”
In March 2013, CCN announced that it was planning a listing on the TSX Venture Exchange in Canada. A year later, CCN told us that a company called SC Capital Partners was carrying out “an independent market valuation of its assets”, in preparation for the listing.
REDD-Monitor has written to Stephen Fryer, CEO and Managing Partner of SC Capital Partners, to ask about his firm’s valuation of CCN’s assets, about the proposed listing on the Toronto Stock Exchange, and what due diligence his company carried out before taking on CCN as a client.
Fryer has been a member of CCN since October 2012 (invited by Erminio Kotlar):
REDD-Monitor looks forward to posting Fryer’s response.
Tony Corleone, undercover journalist
Papaleo, the journalist who made this film is an interesting character. In 2012, he went undercover using the name Tony Corleone. He posed as a “morally bankrupt, corrupt and substance-abusing journalist”, to gain the trust of underworld criminals in Bratislava. At their request, he travelled to Hong Kong to set up front companies and bank accounts.
To avoid a return trip to Hong Kong, he got blind drunk at an Italian embassy party in Bratislava. He left in an ambulance after throwing himself downstairs and was taken to hospital with bruising and lacerations.
In September 2014, Juraj Jariabka was jailed for four years for his role in the money laundering plot that Papaleo exposed.
After revealing the crime, Papaleo received death threats. He was robbed and stabbed in Phuket in Thailand. He was operated on in hospital and had to have his spleen removed. “I am lucky to still be alive,” he wrote in the South China Morning Post.
Make money, Save forest
Here is Papaleo’s film about CCN followed by some of the highlights:
Erminio Kotlar (CCN): “I’m a grandfather now, and I want to leave this place in a better place than I found it for my grandchildren. That’s exactly what happened. I’m a school teacher. I’m a greenie. My background is art and sculpture. I’ve always been in the sort of green movement, I guess, growing trees.
“And then I got into normal business. I became very successful. Then about 28 years ago I got into network marketing and social marketing and general sales and I’ve done all sorts of selling.
“Now is there anybody in this room who thinks making money is not a good idea? Put your hand up. Anybody in this room that thinks saving the rainforests is a bad idea, put your hand up. You know what we do? Save the rainforests and make money.”
Jiří Šikola (ex-CCN member): “I started to suspect it was a fraud sometime in the middle of summer 2013 when I had co-operated with CCN for nine months and when they kept promising me that the problematic things I pointed out would be solved later, later, later and nothing happened.
“After six months and nine months of asking about the general meeting, the company’s economic results, tangible numbers, I got replies that they will provide them later, later, later, and I never received any report or results. As a shareholder, I have the right to see the economic results. I have never seen or received anything.
“After my initial suspicions, my first reaction was to stop activities, as I had other investors who liked the idea. I decided to stop the investment of any money until we clarified the situation. I told the investors that I would get back to them later.
“I think every member of CCN is a victim of the fraud, every person who becomes a member of CCN and pays the registration fee, because he/she is convinced that his/her money is going to REDD projects. At the moment they give up their money to CCN, they are informed that the money is to be used for REDD projects, but at that moment the company does not even have any REDD projects, meaning primarily all members of CCN are being deceived.”
Campbell Scott (CCN): “Our goal right now is to allow the members to help us to save and protect hectares of rainforest. We offer them a banking system with our mastercard, which is connected soon to our discount shopping system, which is also connected to our new travel business aswell.
“So, we’re chasing the green dollar spend. And soon we’ll be able to train some of our more enthusiastic members to go out and approach businesses directly and sell them our conservation management packs.
“So, as a promoter you would spend your time and your skills and enjoy the profits. And if you don’t want to do that, you can put your money in and enjoy the profits.
“In effect you can spend your money and leverage off the company’s success and the top promoters’ success, without having to be a saleperson or a promoter.”
Fero Gachulinec (ex-CCN member): “CCN does not have REDD projects, they never invested money in them, so where is the money? We bought non-existent carbon credits. CCN does not have REDD projects. We gave millions of euro and where is our money now? CCN does not have it, so where is it?
“At the beginning of 2013, I started to ask Emrinio and Campbell Scott intrusive questions about the readiness of the feasibility study and wanted to check it. And so troubles began.
“Neither the police nor the public prosecutor can understand this. The suddenly, an article appeared on a web portal, I do not remember whether it was topky.sk, that Tony Papaleo had nailed that Jariabka. I read that he had pretended to be a drug addict, and so I told myself: that’s strong stuff, I need that man.
“It has been a fraud since the very beginning. That means CCN knew that they did not possess any carbon credits, that those credits are with a later delivery, but even so it sold them anyway and presented them as complete.”