Last week, REDD-Monitor received a message from Boniface Mburaburirwe asking whether I have any buyers for carbon credits. I suspect Mburaburirwe hasn’t read much on REDD-Monitor, particularly not the series of posts about scam artists selling carbon credits to unsuspecting members of the public as investments.
Mburaburirwe’s message was short and to the point, if perhaps a little light on details. Here it is, in full:
345 million certified carbon credits already invested on Bloomberg are available for sale at $6.80 per tonne. Please let me know if you have buyers. Thank you
My curiousity got the better of me, and I replied with the following questions:
- Which project are the carbon credits from, and in which country?
- Who are the project developers?
- Is it a REDD project?
- What is the vintage of the carbon credits?
- Who currently owns the carbon credits?
- Which registry are the credits on?
- Are the carbon credits verified and certified?
- Could you please send the verification and certification statements (or links to them). And the Project Design Document (PDD).
- Could you please explain what you mean by the “carbon credits already invested on Bloomberg”.
Mburaburirwe responded promptly. “I will forward to you all the information I have from the seller after this email and then we take it from there,” he wrote.
And here’s the email he forwarded minutes later from Dr. Elena E. Gorshkova. She works in the Compliance Department of a company called MED Investment Operations Ltd and her email address tells us that she also works at a company called The Equivest Alliance:
From: “Dr. Elena E. Gorshkova”
To: Boniface Mburaburirwe
Date: 17 July 2016 at 11:16
Subject: CARBON CREDITS REDD – for carbon offsets
Dear Mr. Boniface,
Here is the procedure and info related to the CARBON CREDITS held at MED INVESTMENT OPERATIONS LTD.
It is my pleasure to Update you on what it is exactly that MED INVESTMENT OPERATIONS LTD has to propose as Assets in the form of Carbon Credit Units.
The difference to what is available on the Market today is that what we have are official REDD registered Carbon units in BLOOMBERG with FIGI:BBG00CTZMW81
Med Investment operations ltd has managed this Certified units from the methodologies till the certification process on the governmental brazillian platform Sisa/Inbecas (Brazilian Institute of carbon stocks and sustainable actions)
The Carbon Units we have hold the Highest level of Certification in the world categorised as REDD
This certificate confirms the issuance of 345.366.961,2600 REDD/ESCVT MidiaGeo (Vintage 2012) with unitary value U$ 4,50 per REDD/ESCVT
These REDD/ESCVT MidiaGeo equate to 345.366.961,2600 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in voluntary units of verified emission from avoided deforestation belonging to the project.
This transaction makes viable the preservation, safekeeping and protection of the Amazon Forest, its biodiversity and natural resources as well as the protection of local communities and strengthening its system of food production.
What is equally important to note is that the Emission of these Carbon units is a Via a Private entity and not public which means that there are absolutely no restrictions to selling the units we hold Outside Brazil.
It is also important to note that the Only physical person able to transfer the title of these Units to third parties is Myself via a personal Key to the Sisa/Inbecas Platform where the Units are held and seen by the world entire.
I am Able to sell any volume quantity and transfer title and re issue The Master Certificate to the new owner all with the click of a button.
Please find attached Master Certificate of aggregate Emission Value of U$ 1.554.151.325,67 showing clearly MED INVESTMENT OPERATIONS LTD as Proprietor
Also attached BLOOMBERG screen shot
We are selling our REDD Carbon Units at $6.80 which is the value you can apply to the total Volume we hold.
Approx Total Quantity of Units: 345,366,961.00 (Three hundred and forty-five million, three hundred and sixty-six thousand, nine hundred and sixty-one carbon credits)
$2.348,495,334.8 is the total price. It is negotiable. Discount follow the Purchase order.
For any further info related to these units please feel free to forward your questions which i can answer immediately.
I also add that at the moment we are dealing with two airline companies in New Zealand and already have tabled two offers.
BASED ON THIS PRICE we will be able to receive your Clients OFFER against the Volume of Units Required.
A discount from RRP
We would first need to receive an Official LOI + Attached CIS + Attached Purchase order to Our Bankers.
I will be happy to assist you in answering any questions that arise by your clients or potential buyers.
whilst i thank you for your interest,
i remain yours truly,
Dr. Elena E. Gorshkova
The email arrived with the following three attachments (click on the images to see the pdf files):
For the time being, let’s skip over the fact that the email from Gorshkova to Mburaburirwe doesn’t answer all my questions – in particular my request for the Project Design Document and the verification and certification statements. While we’re waiting for copies of those documents, let’s take a closer look at the companies involved in this US$2.3 billion operation.
Med Investment Operations Ltd
Med Investment Operations was registered in Malta on 28 April 2015. The company’s website was registered two months earlier, on 27 February 2015, by Daniel Azzopardi, whose LinkedIn account confirms that he is CEO of Med Investment Operations:
Azzopardi collects antiques and paintings. His father Victor is a silversmith and has a shop in Malta selling jewellry, diamonds, watches, and engagement rings. Daniel Azzopardi runs a company called Cabouxon that describes itself as “a world class luxury gifts store”.
Med Investment Operations offers investment in Luxury Real Estate Projects, Renewable Energy, and Carbon Credits / Green Projects. No details are available on the company’s website about the first two investments. Here’s the company’s web page on Carbon Credits / Green Projects:
The first two paragraphs are cut and pasted from the Wikipedia entry on REDD. The next paragraph is cut and pasted from the Wikipedia entry on the Kyoto Protocol. And the rest is cut and pasted from Carbon Planet’s website.
Med Investment Operations also offers investments in gold, oil and gas, and diamonds.
On 24 July 2016, Azzopardi replied to my questions. I’ll post his reply as a separate post for two reasons: this post is long enough already; and Azzopardi’s response deserves its own post.
The Equivest Alliance Ltd
Ward has an interesting history. He provides an outline on his LinkedIn page, but misses out the names of several of the companies.
The missing company names are available on the website of the World Alternative Investment Summit. The 2011 World Alternative Investment Summit includes a description of Ward’s career up to that point:
The bit we’re interested in is the company that Ward formed in 2008: Novus International Investments Ltd. Registered in the Seychelles, this is how the WAIS website explains what the company did:
Novus is the worldwide promoter of the Axiom Legal Financing Fund and distributes it worldwide through a network of financial intermediaries and institutions. The Axiom Fund makes fixed interest short term loans to UK law firms.
That’s one way of describing Axiom. Here’s another. It’s a message for people unfortunate enough to have handed over their money to Axiom, written by David Marchant of Offshore Alert in November 2012:
The bad news is you have been defrauded of your investment in Axiom Legal Financing Fund. Your money has been embezzled by the Fund’s controlling person, Timothy Schools, and other insiders….
The good news is that the level of incompetence, unprofessionalism and negligence by the Fund’s advisers and those entrusted with looking after your interests is possibly the worst I have seen in 27 years as a journalist. This means that Axiom’s liquidators, when they are eventually appointed, will almost certainly recover millions of dollars in damages from them or their insurers in lawsuits that I expect to be slam-dunks. Unfortunately, the liquidators and their own professional advisers will keep much of this as fees and costs. The eventual liquidation dividend to investors is likely to be much less than your losses. I’m sorry but that’s just the nature of the beast and the price you must pay for investing in an overtly-ridiculous scheme that had red flags plastered all over it.
In a comment following this post, Marchant responded to a question about whether Schools and colleagues had embezzled the whole fund:
In February 2012, Clive Ward appeared on CNBC explaining the Axiom Legal Financing Fund. “Nothing’s ever totally risk free,” he says, almost managing to keep a straight face:
In a 5 November 2012 post on Offshore Alert Marchant wrote that, “The Cayman Islands-domiciled Fund, which has raised more than £117 million, appears to be a Ponzi scheme.”
In January 2014, Marchant wrote that,
British attorney Timothy Schools and entities he wholly or partly beneficially owned received £81 million of the £108 million that was swindled from investors in Cayman Islands-domiciled Axiom Legal Financing Fund, the Fund’s Receivers have claimed in an amended complaint filed at the High Court in London.
By the end of 2015, receivers had recovered £12.3 million of the £120 million held by the fund when it was suspended. By the time expenses are subtracted, including £5.5 million in legal fees, only £2.6 million remains for investors.
In the next instalment, REDD-Monitor will take a look at Azzopardi’s response, followed by a look at the D’Cerrado A’Amazonia REDD project in Brazil.