Last year, four of the top five posts on REDD-Monitor were about scams and frauds. But half of the top ten posts featured forests and climate change. And the post about EcoPlanet Bamboo is about a bamboo plantation company and a slowly unravelling investment scam. Inveterate fraudster Renwick Haddow appears in three of the top ten posts in 2018 (as he did in 2017).
During 2018, there were 136 new posts on REDD-Monitor. Here are the ten most popular posts:
1. Peter Singh Virdee avoids extradition to Germany to face charges of VAT fraud on carbon credit sales. Virdee is now being investigated for corruption in the Caribbean
17 May 2018
On 10 January 2017, UK police arrested Peter Singh Virdee, a British businessman, in Heathrow airport. Virdee faced extradition to Germany accused of fraud and €125 million in unpaid VAT on sales of carbon credits.
Virdee’s German lawyers challenged the arrest warrant issued by the District Court of Frankfurt am Main. The warrant was quashed on 28 June 2017, and the extradition proceedings fell away.
But from 31 January 2015 to 26 January 2017, the German authorities tapped Virdee’s phone as part of their investigations into the suspected VAT fraud.
Recently, some of the contents of those phone calls became public in a hearing involving Virdee at the Royal Courts of Justice in London. The phone calls reveal Virdee talking to Dieter Trutschler about payments to high level Caribbean politicians.
5 January 2018
Last year, REDD-Monitor wrote a series of posts about Renwick Haddow’s latest scam, Bar Works. The most recent post was in July 2017, after the Securities and Exchange Commission filed a legal complaint against Haddow. The complaint alleged that Haddow fraudulently raised almost US$38 million from investors.
Haddow faces up to 40 years in prison if convicted.
19 January 2018
In India, when an area of forest land is cleared, an equivalent area of land has to be afforested. Since 2006, the government has imposed a fee on companies that clear forests for mining, industry, or other projects. The money goes into the Compensatory Afforestation Fund. The Compensation Afforestation Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) is the organisation responsible for overseeing this afforestation. But the money collected was largely unused.
India’s Compensatory Afforestation Fund Act, passed in 2016, approves the release of the money collected in the Compensatory Afforestation Fund to the forest department to be spent on afforestation projects.
This system of “compensatory afforestation” is described by its proponents as a “win-win”. The environment supposedly wins, because the loss of forest is “compensated”. And business wins because they can clear forest, and hope one day to trade the carbon stored in India’s forests (and plantations) on international carbon markets.
But a three part series of articles by Manasi Karthik and Arpitha Kodiveri provides a detailed critical analysis of “compensatory afforestation”. The series launches their new website POLLNet (The Political Ecology and Law Network).
29 March 2018
A recent article by Angeli Mehta on the website Ethical Corporation reports on a “young company” called EcoPlanet Bamboo. Mehta writes that “EcoPlanet Bamboo is creating permanent jobs for communities.”
Camille Rebelo, co-founder of EcoPlanet Bamboo, told Mehta that,
“These are multi-generational projects … In Nicaragua that [means it is creating jobs for] 90-120 years if managed correctly.
“Bamboo needs a lot of management in the first five to six years so employment is high on the field level … then onto manufacturing.”
Mehta’s reporting was based on a January 2018 report published by the World Resources Institute and The Nature Conservancy.
20 April 2018
Renwick Haddow, the man behind the Capital Alternatives network of scam companies, a an alleged Bitcoin fraud and the Bar Works investment scam, has been extradited to the USA. He appeared in a Manhattan District Court on 13 April 2018.
Haddow has been charged with two counts of wire fraud, for Bitcoin Store and Bar Works.
7 June 2018
Five years ago, in an article headlined, “Time for Big Green to Go Fossil Free”, Naomi Klein exposed the big US-based NGOs that were investing in the fossil fuel industry. WWF was one of the NGOs that Klein found was investing in fossil fuels.
Ian Morrison, a spokesperson for WWF, told Klein that, “We don’t have direct investments, so we do not hold shares of any companies directly. Our investments are primarily through diversified funds.”
When asked whether WWF was considering divesting from fossil fuel investments, Morrison replied that, “We are interested in the issue you’ve raised and are actively engaged in our own internal discussions in this area.”
Now an investigation by NBC News reveals that in 2008 WWF invested more than US$2 million with a private equity firm called Denham Capital.
7. Jane Goodall Institute’s REDD project in Tanzania: A totalitarian approach to conservation that led to increased inequity, undermining of democracy, and violent evictions
6 April 2018
In March 2009, Norway launched its REDD programme in Tanzania. This was a “nested approach”, that was to include developing a national REDD strategy, national forest monitoring, and local pilot projects. About one-third of Norway’s US$90 million went to eight NGOs. One of these NGOs was the Jane Goodall Institute.
In 2014, Emma Jane Lord, now a PhD candidate at the University of Bergen, carried out five months of months of fieldwork looking into the Jane Goodall Institute’s US$2.76 million REDD project in the Masito Ugalla Ecosystem. She carried out 66 in-depth interviews with peasants, pastoralists, local politicians, implementers of REDD, NGO staff, and academics.
Lord’s research is written up as a chapter in the new book, “Global Forest Governance and Climate Change” edited by Emmanuel O. Nuesiri.
Her findings are shocking. Lord writes of violent evictions that took place in August 2012 in two villages in the project area.
8. London High Court orders Capital Alternatives to repay £16.9 million. New York Southern District Court orders Bar Works and Bitcoin Store to pay US$83.35 million
3 April 2018
Capital Alternatives Limited was part of a network of scam companies that offered “investments” to the general public including a rice farm in Sierra Leone, and carbon credits from projects in Sierra Leone, Brazil, and Australia. Last week, the High Court in London found that these “investments” were illegal collective investment schemes.
The High Court also found that between 2009 and 2013, companies in the Capital Alternatives network promoted these “investments” to the public by
“false, misleading and deceptive statements”.
The rice farm in Sierra Leone was operated by African Land (also known as Agri Capital), and the carbon credit schemes by Reforestation Projects (also known as Capital Carbon Credits). According to the Financial Conduct Authority, about 2,500 retail investors were conned into investing in these scams.
In a judgement handed down on 26 March 2018, the High Court ordered Capital Alternatives, Renwick Haddow, Marcia Hargous, Robert McKendrick and others to repay £16.9 million to investors.
9. The Brazzaville Declaration: Words not action on peatland protection in the Congo Basin. And the strange case of the Congo Basin Blue Fund and the Brazzaville Foundation
27 March 2018
Last week, the third meeting of the Partners of the Global Peatlands Initiative took place in Brazzaville, capital of the Republic of Congo. After the meeting, the United Nations Environment Programme, one of the organisers and funder of the meeting, put out a press release announcing that a “historic agreement” had been signed “to protect the world’s largest tropical peatland”.
The Brazzaville Declaration was signed by the environment ministers of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Republic of Congo, and Indonesia. The Declaration is available in full below.
30 January 2018
In 2007, sustainable forest management was written into the definition of REDD in the Bali Action Plan. Ten years later, the main funder of REDD, the Norwegian government, has commissioned a review of sustainable forest management.
As the report is not available on the website of Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative (or anywhere else), REDD-Monitor is making it available here, in the interests of transparency and to generate further discussion.