By Chris Lang
BR & UK Florestal EIRELI – EPP is a Brazilian company that runs teak plantations in Brazil. In March 2018, Imaflora audited the company’s 53 hectares of plantations and remnants of forest, and certified them as well managed under the Forest Stewardship Council system.
The plantations are near the town of Jaru in the state of Rondônia. The 10 hectares of the Puma Plantation were planted in February 2017. The company bought the Marmoset Plantation in June 2017. The trees on that plantation were planted in 2001.
The name of the FSC-certified company is BR & UK Florestal EIRELI – EPP. But the company behind the operation is a UK registered company called Green IS Group. Imaflora acknowledges this in its audits by inserting “(Green Is)” after the name of the company.
In its 19 August 2019 audit, Imaflora raised a major corrective action. Green IS Group was using the FSC logo on several investment websites. Here’s an example: a screenshot from an archived copy of green-bonds.uk.com, dated 28 July 2019:
By 29 August 2019, the website had disappeared. Imaflora reports in its audit that by September 2019, on greenis.co.uk and green-forestry.co.uk, “no mentions related to the use of the FSC brand were found”.
Unfortunately, Imaflora didn’t bother looking at Green IS Group’s Facebook page, which still features the FSC logo:
And back in September 2017 the green-bonds.uk.com website was giving the impression that the company was already FSC certified. The website stated that, “The FSC (Forestry Stewardship Council) certified company meets high levels of local and international ethical and sustainable standards.” At this stage, Green IS was not FSC-certified.
The website greenis.co.uk currently features the FSC logo with a disclaimer stating that “FSC is not responsible for, and does not endorse, any return on financial investment statements”:
FSC’s mission is to “promote environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial, and economically viable management of the world’s forests.” Surely FSC doesn’t believe that a Ponzi scheme is economically viable?
The Green IS network of companies
Green IS turns out to be not one company, but several related companies. Here’s a list (possibly not complete), in chronological order of the registration of the companies:
- Green IS Projects Limited was registered in the UK on 9 August 2013.
Directors: Guy Conroy, Daniel Scott-Drysdale, Roland Jansen (resigned 20 October 2015), Tony Vranckx (resigned 1 September 2014), Cheryl Williams (resigned 1 January 2018), Gary Williamson (resigned 10 June 2019).
Control: Guy Conroy.
Address: Blackwell House, Guildhall Yard, London, EC2V 5AE.
Notes: Previously called Green Investment Solutions Limited.
- GIS Forestry Limited was registered in the UK on 5 March 2014.
Directors: Guy Conroy, Danile Scott-Drysdale, Cheryl Williams (resigned 1 January 2018), Gary Williamson (resigned 10 June 2019).
Control: Cheryl Williams-Conroy, Guy Conroy.
Address: Blackwell House, Guildhall Yard, London, EC2V 5AE.
Notes: According to a 2019 company brochure, in June 2017 GIS Forestry bought a plantation and title to 35,000 teak trees in Rondônia. GIS Forestry entered into a plantation maintenance agreement with Green IS Timber Comercio de Madeiras under which GIS Forestry agreed to pay £35,000 per year.
- Green IS Holding Company Limited was registered in the UK on 17 June 2014.
Directors: Guy Conroy, Daniel Scott-Drysdale, James Williams-Ward (resigned 1 January 2018), Gary Williamson (resigned 10 June 2019).
Secretaries: Daniel Scott-Drysdale, Accounting Worx Secretaries Limited (resigned on 1 January 2018).
Control: Guy Conroy, James William-Ward (until 10 May 2019).
Address: Accounting Worx Ltd 61-63 Crockhamwell Road, Woodley, Reading, England, RG5 3JP.
Notes: Accounts overdue. On 9 July 2020 the company re-registered from a Public Limited Company to Private. Previously called Green Investment Solutions Holidngs PLC, then Green IS Holding Company PLC.
- GIS Clean Green Bond Limited was registered in the UK on 11 September 2014.
Directors: Guy Conroy, Gary Williamson, Roeland [sic] Jansen (resigned 20 October 2015).
Secretaries: Accounting Worx Secretaries Limited (resigned 1 January 2018).
Control: Guy Conroy, James Williams-Ward, Cheryl Williams.
Address: Accounting Worx Ltd 61-63 Crockhamwell Road, Woodley, Reading, England, RG5 3JP
Notes: Accounts overdue. Confirmation statement overdue.
- Green IS Group Limited was registered in the UK on 23 March 2015.
Directors: Guy Conroy, Daniel Scott-Drysdale, Cheryl Williams (resigned 1 January 2018), James Williams-Ward (resigned 1 January 2018), Gary Williamson (resigned 10 June 2019).
Control: Guy Conroy, Gary Williamson (until 10 April 2019).
Address: Blackwell House, Guildhall Yard, London, United Kingdom, EC2V 5AE.
Notes: In 2018 Green IS Group reported a turnover of £7 million. Cost of sales came to nearly £4.4 million, administrative expenses nearly £2.2 million, leaving profit after tax of £394,116.
- 3G Capital Limited was registered in the UK on 8 April 2015.
Directors: Guy Conroy, Gary Williamson, Graham Arnott (resigned 9 October 2015).
Control: Gary Williamson, Guy Conroy.
Address: Accounting Worx Ltd 61-63 Crockhamwell Road, Woodley, Reading, England, RG5 3JP.
Notes: According to a May 2019 Green IS Group company brochure, 3G Capital is the Managing Agent for the Green Bond Issue. On its website, 3G Capital lists two clients: UK Asset Capital Limited and DL Capital Limited. Both companies shared the 61/63 Crockhamwell Road address in Reading, and both companies are dissolved.
- BR & UK Florestal LTDA was registered in Brazil on 13 April 2016.
Address: AV Padre Adolpho Rohl 941 Setor 02, Jaru, Rondônia, Brazil.
Notes: BR & UK Florestal EIRELI – EPP is the name of the FSC-certified company, according to the FSC website. On Imaflora’s most recent audit, the company contact is Cleilton Florêncio Leite His email address is XXXX@greenis.co.uk. On the Green IS Group Limited website, Leite is listed as Managing Director of Green IS Timber Comercio de Mederia [sic] LTDA. A Green IS Group company brochure states that “Green IS Timber Comercio de Madeiras Ltda are FSC certified with chain of custody for all of its operations in Brazil.”
- Green Guard Group Limited was registered in the UK on 13 July 2017.
Directors: Thor Conroy, James Sutton, Leon Bartlett (resigned 1 December 2018).
Control: Thor Conroy.
Address: Cudham Tithe Barn, Berrys Hill, Berrys Green, Westerham, England, TN16 3AG.
Notes: Previously called Fidelity Wealth Limited, the company promoted property investment in Dubai. It is now also offering “Ethical & Sustainable Bonds” with a “stable return of 8-11% per annum”.
- UK Asset Capital Limited was registered in the UK on 6 October 2017. On 10 March 2020, the company was dissolved via compulsory strike-off.
Directors: Guy Conroy, Gary Williamson.
Control: Guy Controy, Gary Williamson.
Address: 61/63, Crockhamwell Road, Woodley, Berkshire, United Kingdom, RG5 3JP.
- Green IS Ventures Limited was registered in the UK on 20 June 2019.
Directors: Guy Conroy, Daniel Scott-Drysdale, Green IS Group Limited.
Control: Guy Conroy.
Address: Blackwell House, Guildhall Yard, London, England, EC2V 5AE.
Notes: On 25 February 2020, Green IS Ventures took out a “debenture containing floating charge over the assets and undertaking of the company” with a company called Audacia Capital (Ireland) plc.
The Green IS “investment”
The website greenis.co.uk has been pushing what it calls “Ethical and sustainable forestry investment” since at least December 2013.
By June 2014, the company was explaining on its website that,
Investments start from as little as £5,000 and the amount of trees purchased varies according to the term of the investment selected. For instance, £10,000 buys 300 Teak trees planted from saplings or £10,000 buys 150 Standing Teak trees aged 9 years old.
When the investor purchases their trees the saplings are planted and nurtured by expert foresters who will also provide the investor with an annual report. The annual report provided to the investor will explain events such as the thinning of teak trees to make more room for the stronger trees; the harvested timber from the thinning will be sold and the investor will receive the payment.
The investor can choose to sell their investment at any time and will receive the current market value of the trees according to an independent valuation of the timber.
A May 2019 Green IS Group brochure, titled “Green Bond Invitation Document”, explains that this is an extremely high risk, completely unregulated investment:
The investments being offered are not FCA regulated investment products.
They may only be offered to prospective investors exempt from the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 by way of their inclusion in Part VI of the Financial Services and Markets Act (Financial Promotion) Order 2005.
By agreeing to take up these investments, you will not be eligible for regulatory protection and you may lose all your money.
The brochure also points out that,
Green IS Group Limited is not regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (“FCA”). They are not permitted to offer, nor do offer, any financial advice about investment products, be they regulated or unregulated.
Earlier this year, Green IS Ventures put out a brochure promising 7.5% annual interest, paid quarterly. The total return promised is 37.5% after five years:
The issuer of the bond is Audacia (Capital) Ireland Ltd. Green IS Ventures’ brochure claims that the bond is recognised by the Financial Conduct Authority: “The FCA classify these bonds as standard assets due to the structure controlled by the Central Bank of Ireland and listing on the Irish Stock Exchange, which is recognised as a major stock exchange.”
The directors of Audacia Capital include John Ferguson and Charlie Goldsmith.
Ferguson’s previous company, Square Mile International was an unregulated Czech financial advisory firm that pushed people to invest in Blackmore Bonds. You can read more about how this mini-bond investment scheme collapsed here:
Since the beginning of this year, consumer campaigner Mark Taber has been reporting every advert for mini-bonds that he finds on Google to the Financial Conduct Authority. In the first month, he reported 90 bond and individual saving account (ISA) adverts.
On 6 July 2020 he took a screenshot of an advert for “Green Forestry Bonds”, with a link to the greenisbonds.co.uk website:
Clicking on the link takes us to greenisbonds.co.uk – a website run by Green Guard Group Limited:
At the bottom of the website is the following note: “Our ethical forestry operation in Brazil is proud to be a member of the FSC. Our license code is FSC-C133983.” Clicking on the link takes us to FSC’s website for the certification of BR & UK Florestal EIRELI – EPP.
I’m guessing that Green Guard Group’s director, Thor Conroy, is Guy Conroy’s son.
A look at Guy Conroy’s and Gary Williamson’s past records reveals that Green IS Group isn’t their first forestry investment scheme. Needless to say, none of these companies were registered with the Financial Conduct Authority. And all of them collapsed.
“Prior to starting GIS, he worked at ITAS Ltd, a start up company in the forestry investment business. Guy was responsible for business operations, sales and business development. He developed the business from its launch in the forestry industry to a multi million pound forestry investment business.”
That’s what Guy Conroy did before Green IS, according to an archived copy of Green Investment Solutions’ website dated 24 June 2014.
An archived copy of the company’s website in 2012 includes the following claim:
ITAS is are a specialist timber investments company for private and corperate [sic] investors based in the UK.
A typical investment of £10,000 over 5 years with a project return of £68,850. we offer investments from 18 years to 3 years with entry levels as low as £5,000.
Here’s a screenshot of the investment offer on the company’s website in March 2016:
On 27 June 2018, I.T.A.S. Limited was ordered to be wound up in the High Court. The company is now in liquidation.
In December 2019, the Liquidator produced a report that includes the following comment:
A very considerable amount of time has been spent attempting to assemble the books and records in this case to enable me to properly unscramble and understand the Insolvent Estate’s affairs, dealings and property. The reason for that position has been by virtue of what appears to me to be the incompleteness of the books and records disclosed to me by the Insolvent Estate’s Diretors and the piecemeal way in which disclosure has been provided over a considerable number of months.
The liquidator reports that I.T.A.S. Limited claims to have 500 trees in Brazil “with an estimated value of £15,400”.
The Liquidator has enquired of Adrian Byrne as to trees that he has suggested to be ascertainable for the investor contingent creditors. Mr Byrne submits that the trees are available for each of the tree purchasers. The Liquidator has struggled to establish from the Insolvent Estate’s records how a tree purchaser can identify and access their trees.
The liquidator received claims totalling more than £3.1 million.
The current version of the Green IS Group website makes no mention of I.T.A.S. Limited.
Conroy was a director of a company called Oxigen-Investments PLC, registered in the UK in December 2004. The company set up teak and agarwood plantations in Costa Rica and Sri Lanka. The minimum investment was £10,000.
An Oxigen-Investments brochure suggested a return of £193,950 on a £10,000 investment:
If that sounds too good to be true, it’s because it is. Offshore Alert’s David Marchant points out that, “Any investment scheme with a performance chart that is essentially a diagonal line trending upwards with little or no meaningful variation over many months is a Ponzi scheme and, as such, doomed to failure.”
In 2009, Richard Branson agreed a deal with Oxigen to offset the carbon Virgin’s Formula One racing cars emitted using Oxigen’s trees.
In a press release about the deal, Guy Conroy said,
“Formula One represents the global media platform that will position our brand on an international stage and it was an easy decision to partner with the Virgin Racing team given Virgin’s stated position on the environment and the exciting team that has been put together to challenge for F1 honours. We look forward to the start of the new F1 season and to working with the team to create awareness and positioning for our brand and to developing new business opportunities.”
Money Observer reports that Branson subsequently sued Oxigen, when the terms of the arrangement were broken, bringing Oxigen “to its knees”.
Paul Laver and Matthew Pickard were two of the directors of Oxigen-Investments. Laver and Pickard were also directors, with Stephen Greenaway, of a company called Ethical Forestry Limited, that offered investments in a plantation in Costa Rica. About 3,500 people invested a total of £70 million in the scheme. The company went into liquidation in December 2015. In 2019, all three directors were disqualified from acting as a director of a company for six years each. In December 2016, the Serious Fraud Office opened an investigation into Ethical Forestry Limited.
Green Forestry Management Limited
Conroy and Williamson were directors of a company called Oxigen Forestry Limited. The company was registered in the UK on 14 January 2010. It was renamed in June 2014 as Green Forestry Management Limited.
According to a 2015 Green Forestry Bond Invitation Document, Green Forestry Management Limited entered into a plantation maintenance agreement with GIS Forestry Limited. Green Forestry Management was paid £35,000 per year to maintain 35,000 teak trees. Meanwhile GIS Forestry Limited issued 200 Green Forestry Bond certificates.
It appears to be exactly the same investment scheme, and exactly the same plantation as the one certified by FSC. According to the 2015 brochure, GIS Forestry bought a three year lease over the plantation and title to 35,000 teak trees on 1 July 2014.
Green Forestry Management was dissolved via compulsory strike-off on 26 March 2019.
Munio Capital Limited
Munio Capital Limited was registered in the UK on 21 July 2015. The company’s directors were Gary Williamson and James Williams-Ward (resigned 13 September 2017). The company secretary was Accounting Worx Secretaries Limited (resigned 30 September 2019).
In October 2016, David Marchant of Offshore Alert exposed Privilege Wealth as a “global investment fraud”. Marchant also exposed Brett Jolly’s role in setting up the Privilege Wealth investment scheme.
Jolly has a colourful history, some of which is covered in this November 2013 post on REDD-Monitor:
In February 2018, Privilege Wealth went into administration. In January 2020, the High Court ordered the company to be wound up. Investors lost all their money.
The assets of Munio Capital now belong to the UK Government, but as the administrators of Privilege Wealth have confirmed that there is no prospect of a dividend to unsecured creditors, Munio Capital is also near-certain to be worthless.