By Chris Lang
On 15 March 2018, Dylan Creaven and Andrew Rowe were convicted of two counts of conspiracy to defraud (selling carbon credits and diamonds as investments) and one count of money laundering. They were sentenced to 13 years in jail.
In December 2020, Creaven and Rowe appealed their convictions at the Court of Appeal together with five other men. Their appeal followed the collapse of a carbon fraud trial in May 2019 featuring Andrew Ager as expert witness. The judge described Ager as “not an expert of suitable caliber”.
Between 2012 and 2019, Ager gave evidence in 14 criminal trials. The judgement from the December 2020 Court of Appeal case ruled that although Ager’s behaviour as an expert witness was “egregious”, the substance of Ager’s evidence on key issues was not challenged. In addition to Ager’s evidence, “there was abundant other evidence that all of these schemes were fraudulent”.
The judgement describes how Creaven and Rowe scammed people through two companies called Agon Energy Ltd and Lanyard Capital Ltd. Agon Energy Ltd sold carbon credits and Lanyard Capital sold diamonds.
Agon Energy Ltd
Between November 2011 and June 2013, Creaven, Rowe, and Matthew Mansell set up a boiler room operation in Buchanan House, in St James’s Square in London. The company’s sales team sold carbon credits as investments, targetting pensioners. They scammed people out of a total of £3.5 million. The carbon credits were worthless.
The judgement states that,
It became apparent that a large number of individuals, many retired in their 70s and 80s, had been deceived out of considerable amounts of money, to a total of well in excess of £3 million. Between 2012 and 2013 Creaven, Rowe and Mansell operated Agon, which sold carbon credits as investments to members of the public.
The company was registered in April 2011, under the name Green Energy Markets Limited. The name changed to Agon Energy Limited in April 2012. Andrew Rowe was the sole director.
In February 2012, Mansell and Rowe travelled to Denmark to establish a related company called Agon Energy ApS. Rowe was the registered founder, owner, and director of the company. The company’s Danish bank account was in his name.
Here’s how the Court of Appeal judgement describes how Agon Energy operated:
An individual would be “cold called”, usually on their home landline, by a representative of Agon, which they portrayed as a brokerage firm operating in the carbon credit market. The representative would introduce carbon credits as an investment opportunity, quoting markedly favourable returns when compared to Individual Savings Accounts (“ISAs”) and other products that were suggested to be performing less well than investments in carbon credits. The representative would be plausible, polished and initially friendly but also persistent and occasionally aggressive if challenged. Agon appeared an outwardly legitimate company, despatching glossy and professional-looking brochures, utilising an address in London’s St. James’ and operating via a sophisticated website. Once an individual agreed to invest, they were provided with bank details to which to transfer funds. After payment was made, the individual would receive various documents to complete and return and a payment advice. Many individuals made repeat investments with Agon, often for increasingly large amounts and always with a promise of significant profit. The relationship was carefully cultivated, with clients being sent Christmas and birthday cards. When individuals wanted to sell their holdings, they were told to wait or were generally “fobbed off”. By the summer of 2013, Agon had effectively disappeared, in that the telephones were unanswered and the web page was left blank. The investors’ money entirely disappeared.
Reporting on Creaven and Rowe’s trial, the Daily Mail wrote that,
Between 2012 and 2013, Creaven delivered motivational speeches to his salesmen every morning to ‘rev them up’ and they were allowed to keep crates of beer in the office, Blackfriars Crown Court heard.
Creaven and his co-defendant Andrew Rowe, 41, told their victims the carbon credit market was growing with companies having to take their footprint into account.
Before he worked at Agon Energy, Andrew Rowe worked for a company called Hildon Green Energy Markets Ltd. The company scammed people out of at least £3 million by duping them into buying carbon credits as investments. Hildon Green Energy Market’s corporate brochure claimed that within five years carbon trading could be worth more than that of crude oil – two trillion dollars.
REDD-Monitor wrote about Hildon Green Energy Markets Limited in May 2013:
On 10 May 2013, Hildon Green Energy Markets Limited was ordered into liquidation in the High Court. In his judgement, Mr Registrar Jones said that,
The business relies on credits being an investment, they are not. The company is selling something that is wholly based on a misrepresentation, much like selling a performance motor vehicle for driving but only providing a shell of a vehicle without an engine. Not only are there misrepresentations made to the public, vulnerable investors are contacted and persuaded to invest. In one case an elderly gentleman was clearly and very wrongly misled into purchasing credits, was near to a 100 years old and was in no fit state to have a salesman visit and sell him carbon credits. Such conduct is to be deplored and shows the company traded with no morale value at all which should be prevented and the company wound up.
Before Hildon Green Energy Markets, Rowe was involved in a land banking scam called Century Land that had taken more than £10 million from investors. Before that, he was involved in yet another scam called Scala Land. Journalist Tony Hetherington at the Daily Mail warned about that company in 2008.
Creaven was involved with three companies that were shut down in July 2012 following an investigation by the Insolvency Service. Two of the companies, Dantam Frost Ltd and Berkeley Warbeck Limited, were involved in a £3.2 million land banking scam. The third company, Sloan Knight Ltd marketed carbon credits.
In 2005, Creaven was accused of a £162 million VAT fraud – the biggest ever in the UK. While he was found not guilty, after a mediation process, Creaven agreed to hand over £18.5 million, a luxury villa in Marbella, a flat in Knightsbridge, and four racehorses. The money and possessions went to the Assets Recovery Agency in the UK and the Garda Criminal Assets Bureau in Ireland.
Creaven had built up a global business trading in computer chips through two companies: Silicon Technologies Europe and Bradenville Holdings.
Lanyard Capital Ltd
Lanyard Capital was registered in July 2012. It traded from the same office as Agon Energy. Creaven, Rowe, Mansell worked together with Matthew Navin selling diamonds as investments through Lanyard Capital.
The diamonds were either non-existent or poor quality.
The Court of Appeal judgement described the operation as follows:
Individuals, almost all of whom were retired, were “cold called” on their landline telephones by a representative of Lanyard (often Navin), who would introduce the concept of diamonds as an investment opportunity. Once again, a professional, glossy brochure was despatched, and the victim would thereafter be recontacted. The representative was credible, friendly (“nicer than my best friend”) and persuasive. Those contacted believed that Lanyard was a genuine financial investment company with a website and an address in St. James. The consistent promise was of very good returns on investment (up to 40%), that “you could never lose” and that “I could get the money back when it suited me”. Those inveigled to invest transferred very considerable sums (up to £57,000 per diamond). In return, they received account opening documents and related items, and some were sent a diamond by post in a packet (which they were told not to open) together with a Gemological Institute of America (“GIA”) assessment and a magnifying glass. Others did not receive the gemstone. Customers were sent monthly reports and investment strategies which provided reassurance as to the bona fides of Lanyard. As with Agon, some received Christmas cards. Many investors made repeat purchases from Lanyard, always on the promise of further profit. Lanyard representatives sometimes behaved in an aggressive manner if investors declined to purchase additional diamonds. Telephone calls were made to some victims on a daily basis, thereby adding to the pressure and making refusal to invest difficult. Any customers who raised queries were frequently told that the representative they had been dealing with had been sacked or had left the firm. The diamonds, when they were despatched, were worth a fraction of what the individuals had paid, and Lanyard and its representatives vanished once customers began to realise they had been deceived.