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Three directors convicted over £23m biofuels fraud

Three men were today convicted as part of an investigation into a £23m fraud which promoted biofuel investments to UK investors.

Following a Serious Fraud Office investigation, Gary West, James Whale and Stuart Stone were convicted of conspiracy to commit fraud, conspiracy to furnish false information, fraudulent trading and Bribery Act offences at Southwark Crown Court.

The SFO investigated collapsed biofuels firm Sustainable Growth Group and its subsidiaries Sustainable AgroEnergy and Sustainable Wealth Investments.

The investigation focused on the selling and promotion of SAE investment products based on “green biofuel” Jatropha tree plantations in Cambodia.

The products were sold to around 1,500 UK investors who invested primarily via self-invested pension plans.

These investors were deliberately misled into believing that SAE owned land in Cambodia that was planted with Jatropha trees, and that there was an insurance policy in place to protect investors if the crops failed.

West is a former director and chief commercial officer of SAE, Whale is the former chief executive of SGG and Stone was director of SJ Stone, a sales agent of unregulated pension and investment products.

SFO director David Green says: “These three individuals preyed on investors, many of whom were duped into investing life savings and pension funds. As a result, many lost life-changing amounts of money.

“This successful conclusion of the SFO’s investigation clearly demonstrates the harm that this type of investment fraud has on victims and the SFO’s ability and determination to bring criminals to justice.”

The three men have been remanded on conditional bail until their sentencing on 8 December.

In August 2013, they were charged along with a fourth individual, former Sustainable AgroEnergy financial controller Fung Fong Wong.

In March 2012, Money Marketing reported Southwark Crown Court had issued a freezing order on assets held by SGG and its subsidiaries SAE and SWI after a request from the SFO.

The SGG companies was placed into administration in March 2012.

Adrian Hyde, insolvency partner at Chantrey Vellacott, management receiver of SGG, says: “I’m pleased with the outcome, which vindicates the stance taken by the SFO in bringing this case to court.

“In our role as management receivers we are continuing our work to recover assets in Cambodia and the Philippines and we hope the conclusion of the court proceedings will aid the process of resolving what has already been a long and extremely complex case.”

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Comments

There are 4 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. A fraud of this magnitude on innocent and trusting investors must warrant sentences of a least 10 years. The legal system must treat cases like this as an example to others who are so far undetected.

  2. For once I think we can all agree with deterrent sentences here. perhaps a good one for an MM yes/no poll

  3. Is Karen White now Tony Brown?

  4. The case was factually flawed from outset. However, the SFO could not be permitted to lose it. Having sat through the judge leading the jury through the summing up and the judge acting as executioner in his sentencing comments, I have learnt that the “wrong” judge can turn an innocent man into a cynical criminal if the jury is not provided with balanced evidence.

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