In June 2012, REDD-Monitor wrote about a company called Carvier Limited. The company was offering 3 million “Sustainability Credit Units” from an area of forest in Brazil. Carvier Limited was a scam.
Carvier Limited was part of a land banking and carbon credit scam run by three brothers: Barinua Carr Nwikpo, John Ekpobari Nwikpo and Daniel Nwikpo. A fourth man, Bradley Peter Ferry, was also involved.
A series of scam companies
The authorities have been aware of the Nwikpo/Ferry scam for several years. In March 2012, four companies that were part of the scam (Tamar Ltd, Johnnystone Limited, Brad Baker Limited, and Tullett Brown) were shut down by the Official Receiver.
Tullett Brown sold land and carbon credits as investments. Between June 2009 and July 2011, the company conned 106 victims out of a total of just over £2 million for investments in land. Tullett Brown paid £218,000 for the land.
After a visit from investigators from the Secretary of State in 2011, Tullet Brown moved on to the next scam. This turned out to be even more lucrative. Between May 2011 and March 2012, Tullett Brown scammed about 400 victims out of £3.2 million, by selling them a total of 500,000 carbon credits.
Tullett Brown bought the carbon credits from Eco-Synergies Ltd for £600,000. Eco-Synergies paid as little as 37 pence, and an average of 65 pence, per carbon credit. Tullett Brown sold them to its victims for £6.90 each.
After Tullett Brown was shut down the scam continued, under another company name. Between November 2011 and May 2012, Foxstone Carr sold 98,500 carbon credits for a total of £523,900. The carbon credits were also supplied by Eco-Synergies.
Foxstone Carr was shut down in November 2012.
Carvier Limited was shut down in May 2013, following an investigation by the Insolvency Service.
In May 2014, Eco-Synergies and 12 other companies were closed down in the High Court following an investigation by the Insolvency Service. In a press release, Chris Mayhew, Company Investigations Supervisor at the Insolvency Service, said:
Eco-Synergies Ltd was at the centre of and controlled this web of companies in this patently bad scheme to sell carbon credits to the public for investment.
And in July 2014, two more companies linked to the Nwikpo/Ferry scams were shut down. Pine Commodities and Pinecom services scammed retail investors out of almost £2 million by selling them carbon carbon credits as investments.
Know your client?
The Nwikpo brothers didn’t only take in retail investors. Tullett Brown hired a company called Jeff Gillan Graphic Design to produce a logo. Describing their work for Tullett Brown, the company gushes, “The ‘linked’ typographic element is derived from the essence of the business: linking investors with opportunities, and empty spaces with existing urban areas.”
(Obviously, Jeff Gillan Graphic Design was just doing its job when it designed a logo for Tullett Brown. But now that Tullett Brown’s directors have been disqualified, it may well be a good time to remove this one from the design portfolio.)
Tullett Brown also duped the Huffington Post UK. A series of five articles by Simon Greenspan, “Gold and Silver Specialist at City commodities broker, Tullett Brown”, are (perhaps surprisingly) still available on the Huffington Post UK.
“Experts at Tullett Brown feel that 2012 promises to be full of potential for the Carbon Credit markets,” Greenspan writes in one of his articles.
We can only assume that the Huffington Post’s editors had an off day (in the sense of being off work) on the day that this sentence got through:
Voluntary Emissions Reductions (VERs), whilst being identical to CERs in their nature, are not bound by the terms of the Kyoto Protocol and so allow other industries which are designed to reduce emissions (but which aren’t certified by the UN) to produce and market Carbon Credits.
The law firms: Carter-Ruck and Lennons
Apart from the flexible, modern logo (with a touch of the traditional) and the free adverts from the Huffington Post UK, one of the reasons that Tullett Brown managed to stay in business so long was that they hired law firms Carter-Ruck and Lennons who threatened to sue any journalists writing about the company.
Freelance journalist Tony Levene writes that he was cold called by Tullett Brown’s David Hogg in July 2011. Tullett Brown wanted to sell Leven carbon credits. But when Levene wrote about Tullett Brown on the lovemoney.com investor website, he received a letter from Lennons stating that,
“Should you fail to remove the article from the website by 10am tomorrow, we are instructed to issue injunction proceedings against you.”
Levene explains that, “The article was duly removed – including all traces in search engine caches.”
When he warned about Tullett Brown on Twitter, Levene received a letter from Carter-Ruck:
“Should you continue to post defamatory material, we anticipate receiving instructions to bring libel proceedings against you personally.”
Levene writes that, “I could not afford to take that risk.” He deleted the tweet.
In 2012, after Tullett Brown went into liquidation, Levene asked Lennons and Carter-Ruck about the checks they carried out before accepting Tullett Brown as a client. Lennons replied,
“In light of the liquidation of Tullett Brown Limited, we are not in a position to take instructions and are therefore unable to comment on your questions.”
“The partner who dealt with Tullett Brown is no longer at Carter-Ruck. Also, as you are aware, Tullett Brown is now in liquidation. We have no instructions to respond to your questions.”
A brief exchange between Levene and the Daily Mail‘s Tony Hetherington followed a July 2012 article about Tullett Brown by Andrew Penman in The Mirror:
No prosecutions, no money returned
So, what happened to the Nwikpo brothers and Bradley Ferry? Their companies were caught duping the public out of a total of at least £7.7 million. (We don’t know how much Carvier scammed from people and there may be, for all I know, other companies involved.)
All four have been disqualified from acting as director of any company for 14 years.
But none of them has been prosecuted, and they have been allowed to keep all of their victim’s money.
Full Disclosure: This post is part of a series of posts and interviews about REDD in Brazil, with funding from Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung e.V. Click here for all of REDD-Monitor’s funding sources.