The Old Bailey

NEWS WRAP - Eco Investment Scammers Given Prison Sentences

Increasing numbers of investors are motivated to put their money into ethically and ecologically minded investments. This is undoubtedly an admirable aim, however, investors who fail to take adequate international financial advice risk becoming vulnerable to scammers looking to prey on their good intentions.

This fact has recently been underlined with the conviction and sentencing of five men for their operation of a multi-million pound fraudulent eco-investment scheme; a scheme which has been described by HM Revenue & Customs as one of the largest of its kind to be carried out in the UK.

The men were sentenced to a combined total of 43 years imprisonment for their part in a £107.9m fraud which preyed on the good consciences of high-net-worth Individuals who wished to make the most of the tax breaks available on eco-investments.

Justice will be served

As well as time in prison. the five fraudsters have also been ordered by Old Bailey and Southwark Crown Court to repay £20m to HMRC. If they fail to do this they could face another combined 39 years in prison. Furthermore, HMRC says that it will look to trace and confiscate other assets belonging to the men.

Martin Lynagh, from HMRC's fraud investigation commented, "This was a carefully-planned and complex attack on the tax system and now the men have to pay up or spend even more time in prison, and still owe the money." *

Mr Lynagh added that the organisation's work doesn't end with a conviction and that they will endeavour to reclaim stolen assets so that the money can go on to fund public services in the UK.

It is anticipated that the men have hidden a large portion of their profits in opaque offshore jurisdictions and that in order to repay the money they owe will have to cash in pensions and liquidise assets in the UK and Dubai.

How the scam worked

The criminals convinced wealthy investors to put their money into carbon emission reduction certificates. These certificates are part of a scheme that aims to assist countries in meeting United Nations environmental emissions targets.

However, the investors' money never went anywhere near the certificates, instead it was invested in property in Britain and Dubai, with details of the investments never disclosed to HMRC.

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* https://www.ftadviser.com/regulation/2019/12/16/tax-fraudsters-to-pay-back-20m-over-fake-eco-investments/ Accessed 18-12-19

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