By Chris Lang
Andrew Skeene and Omari Bowers ran a company called GFI Consultants Ltd. They used the name Global Forestry Investments and claimed to offer an “ethical and financially rewarding investment” in teak plantations in Brazil.
A company brochure explained that,
The Global Forestry Investments (GFI) Belem Sky Plantation aims to provide long-term growth through investing in Brazilian sustainable forestry. Investors have an opportunity to participate in an ethical and financially rewarding investment.
In 2014, the company was wound up. Investigators with the Insolvency Service found that Global Forestry Investments raised a total of almost £24 million. Investors received a total of less than £710,000.
The liquidator obtained a worldwide freezing order for more than £10 million. Bowers and Skeene challenged the freezing order and in November 2018, a compromise settlement was agreed under which they would make monthly payments totalling £8.6 million.
The liquidators’ investigations into Global Forestry Investments and other Skeene and Bowers companies uncovered a complex financial structure with companies in the USA, Dubai, Belize, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and Mauritius.
In February 2015, the Serious Fraud Office announced that it had “opened a criminal investigation into alleged fraud concerning Global Forestry Investments and Global Forex Investments.” In July 2019, the Serious Fraud Office announced that it had charged Skeene and Bowers with conspiracy to defraud, forgery, and misconduct in the course of winding up.
In January 2018, Skeene and Bowers were banned for 10 years each from controlling or managing a company in the UK.
Skeene’s arrest took place days after the liquidator had handed over the details of the November 2018 settlement to the Serious Fraud Office. Skeene and Bowers argued that doing so was in breach of the settlement agreement.
Last week, High Court Judge Philip Kramer rejected their arguments and ordered them to continue payments under the £8.6 million settlement.
On its website, the Serious Fraud Office lists three upcoming court dates for Skeene and Bowers in Southwark Crown Court:
- 2 April 2020: Case management hearing
- 18 September 2020: Case management hearing
- 6 April 2021: Trial
Reporting on the recent ruling, Tony Hetherington writes in the Mail on Sunday that,
As both men are awaiting trial, there are legal restrictions on what can be published, but I can say that I reported on their scheme to invest in teak trees in Brazil as long ago as 2011.
REDD-Monitor has reported on Global Forest Investments three times: