The Serious Fraud Office has charged a former director of ethical investment scheme Global Forestry Investments in relation to alleged frauds concerning the company between August 2010 and December 2015.
Andrew Nathaniel Skeene has been charged with conspiracy to defraud, forgery, and misconduct in the course of winding up.
Skeene was arrested at Heathrow Airport on Saturday 29 June. He has been charged with three offences of conspiracy to defraud contrary to common law, four offences of forgery, one offence of misconduct in the course of winding up contrary to the Insolvency Act 1986, and one offence of making a false statement not under oath contrary to the Perjury Act 1911.
The SFO opened its investigation into Global Forestry Investments in June 2014. The investigation is ongoing and the SFO said it cannot provide further comment at this time.
In April 2018, it was revealed that two directors of GFI, which traded as Global Forestry Investments, were disqualified for a decade after “they pocketed millions” from investments intended for Brazilian teak schemes, an Insolvency Service investigation found.
Skeene and Junie Conrad Omari Bowers were prevented from controlling or managing a limited company without leave of the court.
On 12 January 2018, the pair gave undertakings to the secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy of ten years each.
An investigation by the Insolvency Service found that GFI received £20,146,631 from the sale of plots in the Belem Sky Project and £3,863,185 from plots sold in the Para Sky Project.
But there was no evidence in GFI’s records or information provided by third parties that the majority of investors in the Belem Sky project received any returns after the first year, with investors receiving only £709,884 in total.
There was also no evidence in the company records or information provided by third parties of any returns being made to investors in the Para Sky project.
Investigators discovered that investors’ funds for the purchase of plots was paid to trust companies and over £13 million arising from the sale of the plots was paid to the bank accounts of Bowers and Skeene.
Insolvency Service official receiver Anthony Hannon said in April last year: “Directors who receive investment monies and misapply them for purposes not to the benefit of the company can expect to face the consequences of a lengthy period of disqualification.”
The two directors explained that they had paid themselves the money as it helped ensure that running and operational costs of GFI could be paid while the company had no bank account. But investigators found that £8,820,311 of those monies were used to pay creditors of a Dubai-based company controlled by Bowers and Skeene, which was wound up by the High Court in October 2014.
The Insolvency Service found the pair caused or allowed the company to operate with a lack of commercial probity from 24 September 2010 until the company ceased trading in March 2014, following a compulsory liquidation.
The Global Forestry Investments website could not be reached and a telephone number listed for the company was not operational.