By Chris Lang
On 11 May 2017, four men were sentenced in Blackfriars Crown Court in London to jail for selling precious metals as investments. The metals were almost worthless. The conmen duped retail investors out of £7.75 million.
Two of the men, Christopher Sabin and Tobias Ridpath, were jailed for nine years. They were behind two companies: Denver Trading Ltd, registered in the Seychelles; and Denver Trading AG, registered in Switzerland. Sabin and Ridpath have been banned as directors for 15 years.
William Berkeley, previously known as William Beasley, was jailed for four years and banned as a director for six years.
The Denver Trading companies acted as suppliers of rare earth metals, that were sold to the public in the UK via a network of boiler room operations.
London Commodity Markets was one of these boiler rooms. The company’s sole director, Nicholas Start, received a seven year sentence and was banned as a director for 10 years.
Nick Start threatened to sue REDD-Monitor
Nick Start has appeared several times on REDD-Monitor. His first appearance was on 26 August 2014, when “Keith” left the following comment:
Just had an email from a ‘Nick Start’ Sales Director for Sterling & Bond LLC with offices in Dubai (302 Icon Tower, Tecom Dubai, UAE, P.O. Box 48796 ), London (One Royal Exchange Avenue, London, EC3V 3LT),Australia (Level 11, 100 William Street, Sydney NSW 2000(and Hong Kong (1709-1710, 17/F, 118 Connaught Road West, Hong Kong), offering to buy my Carbon Credits. A quick check on their website (http://www.sterlingandbond.com/) reveals the usual stock pictures of corporate employees and gives very little specific information on the company itself. they say Sterling & Bond is the trading name for SBB Commercial Brokers L.L.C
License Number: 687192, Registered No: 1113828. It doesn’t say where they are registered though. Wasn’t able to find anything on http://www.fca.org.uk.
I would beware of this Company too…
a guy named Nick Start is trying to get in touch with me ref the VER claiming he can get me out of it. He says he works for a company called Sterling and Bond.
I told him not to contact me again.
On 22 October 2014, REDD-Monitor wrote about Sterling and Bond. The company was part of the Capital Alternatives network of scam companies. I pointed out that Sterling and Bond was running “a ridiculously obvious scam”.
On 10 February 2015, Nick Start wrote to REDD-Monitor. He listed several posts on REDD-Monitor and told me that these posts were “both defamatory and factually incorrect”.
I require any reference to me in these posts and any posts that they attract to be removed without delay or I will instruct my lawyer, who I have copied in, to take immediate action against you personally as the person who sanctioned the post and your company.
Nick Start’s past
He gave me a day to remove all references to him. I pixellated his name in the comments on REDD-Monitor. But I left a link to a 2011 story on Money Marketing about a fake financial broker being jailed for 16 months after he defrauded investors out of £170,000. Exeter Crown Court heard that Nick Start had contacted retail investors saying he represented Global Investment Consultations.
Start told investors that Global Investment Consultations was going to buy shares in Alpha Oil, Barclays, Cairn Energy, GlaxoSmithKline, Lloyds TSB, Royal Bank of Scotland and Rio Tinto and others. It was all lies.
Start was upset about a link to an article about his past appearing on REDD-Monitor. On 12 February 2015, he wrote to me again. “I am now going to take action against you and REDD Monitor,” he wrote. “My past is exactly that, the past and has absolutely no relevance to my current business and working life.”
He wrote again the following day.
As for myself, yes, I was involved in a complete fraud/scam back in September 2008 and subsequently pleaded guilty in Crown Court to 3 charges of Fraud my false representation and sentenced to 16 months in prison. Am I proud of it? Not at all, quite the opposite in fact but I did my time and don’t quite see why you and others feel the need to further tarnish my name nearly 7 years on.
Start added, “I am not the same person I was all those years ago, people can change!”
Two weeks later Start told me he had made a complaint to the police and instructed a solicitor to take action against REDD-Monitor.
Needless to say, I didn’t hear from either the police or Start’s solicitor.
London Commodity Markets
The reality was that on 12 September 2012, shortly after coming out of prison, Nick Start registered a company called London Commodity Markets Ltd. A few weeks later he changed the company’s name to N M Start Limited. On 14 September 2012, he became a director of company called Cherry’s UK Limited. Three days later the company changed its name to London Commodity Markets Ltd.
Here’s what London Commodity Markets’ website looked like:
The words “ridiculously obvious” and “scam” spring to mind. But that’s easy for me to say with the benefit of hindsight. At his recent trial at Blackfriars Crown Court, Judge Rajeev Shetty told Start
“You knew what was going on. You were a skilled manipulator with a skilful sales patter and approachable facade.
“Your greed was so great that you asked customers, who had already invested large sums, to cash in Premium Bonds and ISA’s and you got the details of their family and friends to rip them off as well.”
The police found out about the Denver Trading rare earth metals fraud after a police woman visited a man in his 80s on a completely unrelated matter. As she was leaving, the man said he was about to go to the bank to transfer tens of thousands of pounds in an investment. The police woman alerted Plymouth police’s Financial Investigation Unit.
Devon and Cornwall Police set up Operation Stagecoach in December 2012 to investigate Denver Trading and related companies. In August 2014, following an investigation by the Insolvency Service, Denver Trading AG and Denver Trading Ltd were wound up in the High Court in London.
Recovery rooms got in on the act too. Scammers contacted investors claiming to be from the liquidators, Grant Thornton. They asked for an advance fee to release the rare earth metals.
In September 2016, Devon and Cornwall Police warned that,
It has come to the attention of the investigation team that attempts have been made and continue to be made to defraud individuals who previously purchased rare earth metals from Denver Trading via associated companies. Individuals have received bogus letters and telephone calls from unknown companies purporting to be the appointed manager of the rare earth metals held in storage or claiming that they can arrange a buyer for the rare earth metals at a cost to the individual. Individuals have also received bogus letters purporting to be from genuine and legitimate companies associated with the police investigation into Denver Trading.
While the investigation was ongoing, Nick Start continued working his scams at Sterling and Bond. A few screenshots from Start’s Instagram account in 2015 gives a feel of the extravagant lifestyle he was leading – along with his penchant for tattoos and expensive watches:
On 30 June 2015, a few months after he told REDD-Monitor he was “not the same person I was all those years ago”, Nick Start appeared in Highbury Corner Magistrates Court along with Sabin, Berkeley, and Ridpath. Their trial before a jury at Blackfriars Crown Court started on 9 January 2017.