A 2012 brochure from a company called Ecobamboo Lot makes investing in bamboo look very promising: “A rare opportunity to purchase a Deeded Bamboo Lot in Central America.” The company promised a return of 26% a year: “Bamboo lot owners will receive harvest income starting at year four. The ROI is forecasted at 26% per annual year.” And Ecobamboo Lot plays the green card: “With its exceptional green credentials and high productivity, bamboo is set to become the sustainable timber source of the future.”
By now, if you’ve been following REDD-Monitor’s series of posts about investment scams, you can probably guess the rest of the story. Four years later, after a series of excuses instead of payments, Ecobamboo Lot has written to its investors telling them that it is about to close down.
Fortunately, Ecobamboo Lot has a buyer lined up who is willing to by the plots of land. And at a better price than the investors paid. But there’s an advanced fee to be paid and I’m afraid Ecobamboo Lot looks an awful lot like yet another unregulated investment scam.
According to the brochure, Ecobamboo Lot and Ecobamboo Lot Maintenance are part of the Raúl Arana Castellón Group. But a search for the Raúl Arana Castellón Group on Google returns only Ecobamboo Lot’s brochure.
Teak in Costa Rica
The president and co-founder of Ecobamboo Lot is Jos van Veen. He has form with plantation investments. In 1998, he set up a company in the Netherlands called Groenewoud Bosbouwprojecten B.V. The company established teak and vanilla plantations in Costa Rica. Investors from Belgium and the Netherlands handed over their money for plots of land in the plantations.
Here is Jos van Veen describing why he started his business in Costa Rica:
“I came for the first time in Costa Rica in 2001, but really to have a look for seriously a business I came in 2003, for the first time in Costa Rica. I was first visiting Nicaragua, Panama, but on the end I made the decision to settle my main business in Costa Rica because first of all the cadastre is very secure here, it’s very, the quality of the cadastre is like in Europe or the United States.”
Many of the investors paid the purchase price of the plots of land, but the land was not delivered.
The same report states that approximately 730 people invested in Groenewoud Bosbouwprojecten’s plantations. The investors estimate the total investment at €30 million. According to van Veen it is €27 million.
Bamboo in Nicaragua
EcoBamboo Lot’s operations in Nicaragua were based on the same business model as Groenewoud Bosbouwprojecten’s failed investment scheme in Costa Rica: buying plots of land in a plantation. This time, instead of teak and vanilla, the plantation was bamboo.
Here’s how the company promoted its investment:
And here’s how one investor describes her experience with Jos van Veen:
I have been approached too, in 2014 by Jos van Veen, husband of the owner Daynara and employee in her company Eco Bamboolot. He promised me a lot, it was unbelievable. So I did not believe him, but he garanteed me there was no risk, he would even pay me back all the 14.000 euro I lost with his former company (Groenewoud in Costa Rica) etc. etc. And he told me such pathetic stories that I pitied decided to help him. Also because I had a kind of admiration for the good aims Daynara tells us she is striving for. So I borrowed them some money, only too help, not for gaining any money. I only expected them to pay me back the amount of money I have send to them, no more.
Untill now I have been promised month after month I would get my money back the following. BUT UNTILL NOW I HAVE NEVER SEEN A PENNY BACK.
There are tell tale signs on Ecobamboo Lot’s website that this was all too good to be true. On the website’s “About Ecobamboo Lot” page, Maria Eliza del Rosario Moreno is listed as “Charitable Director” of the company. There’s a photograph supposedly of her, but it’s actually a stock photograph available for download from Fotosearch at a cost of US$3.
On 27 October 2016, Ecobamboo Lot sent the following email to the people who had invested in Ecobamboo Lot – it’s safe to say that this is the Recovery Room part of the scam (names and personal details are redacted):
From: Dayanara C Zuniga email@example.com
Date: 27 October 2016
Subject: Your bamboo lot
As I wrote in my last mail, the financial situation in the company is getting worse and unfortunately we have no other option to close the
The reason is that we are owning and managing for others, not enough bamboo land to export upgraded products for a good price. Bulk-ships for pellets don’t come anymore to Nicaraguan ports and we need to transport them first over land to a Honduras port, which is to expensive.
By fortune we have found a purchaser who want to buy 42 bamboo lots. Your lot can be sold for a good price: Usd XXXX If you want to sell your lot, the transfer could take place already next week.
1. You need to sign a POA which I can send you. The notary will receive the sales price and will transfer the money to your bank account MINUS 3% NOTARY COSTS
2. I need a confirmation of your bank account number and your ID Nr. XXXX
3. Payment before the transaction:
0.5% Muncicipal Tax 55.00
1% Title Registration Tax 110.00
Topografic works and stamps 368.00
Totaal Usd: 689.00
We are leaving to El Rama and Bluefields tomorrow to prepare the transfers of several lots, I do this job for free.
If you have any questions, and/or you are agree to sell your lot, please send me a mail or phone (WhatsApp) +505 84448991
Eco BambooLot & Compania
Frente Parque Arlen Siu
12186 León – Nicaragua
Tel: +505 84448991