United Kingdom

Carbon credit crooks convicted - thanks to our own Tony Hetherington

Two members of a huge criminal network that sold near-worthless carbon credits as investments have been convicted of fraudulent trading after being exposed by The Mail on Sunday's consumer champion Tony Hetherington. 

The convictions follow an investigation by police in the City of London and Hampshire which spanned eight years, followed by a three-month trial that included evidence from The Mail on Sunday. 

Paul Seakens, 60, from Enfield, North London, and Luke Ryan, 33, from Eastleigh, Hampshire, were found guilty last week. Southwark Crown Court heard they had used high-pressure sales tactics and false claims to fool victims into trading in voluntary emission credits – certificates said to allow industries to issue carbon into the atmosphere. 

Going green: False claims were made to fool victims into trading in voluntary emission credits – certificates said to allow industries to issue carbon into the atmosphere

The certificate prices had been marked up by up to 1,000 per cent and they could not be cashed in. 

In March 2013, Hetherington warned in his column that Seakens headed Carbon Neutral Investments Limited, which was at the centre of a network of firms marketing carbon credits. The newspaper report was produced in court as part of the evidence against Seakens. Hetherington was called as a prosecution witness. 

Ryan ran one of the carbon credit sales firms, Enviro Associates, with Seakens as co-director. Enviro netted at least £368,428 from victims. 

Seakens was also linked to 73 other sales firms and police say well over £30million passed through his bank accounts. He was convicted of fraudulent trading and money laundering. 

Detective Inspector Paul Curtis, of the City of London Police, described Seakens and Ryan as 'greedy and malicious individuals'. Detective Inspector Andrew Symes, of Hampshire Constabulary, said 'they caused immeasurable loss', preying upon the most vulnerable. 

Carbon Neutral Investments was regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority, giving investors a false sense of security. The FCA did not remove their authorisation until four years after Hetherington's alert. 

Seakens still appears on the FCA's public register of financial advisers. He and Ryan will be sentenced on May 28.

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