Two alternative investment companies who cheated customers out of almost £2 million by lying to them about the value and performance of investments have been closed in the High Court, London.
A judge ordered Pinecom Services, trading as Pinecom Commodities, and Pine Commodities to be liquidated in the public interest following an investigation by the Insolvency Service.
The court was told both companies took over trading from three other companies after the investigation found customers were tricked into investing by sales advisers who made ‘false and misleading’ claims about carbon credits, precious metals, storage units and diamonds.
All five companies were owned or managed by many if the same directors and shareholders.
The judge heard the directors did not co-operate with investigators, hand over records, and failed to file accounts and other legally required documents with Companies House.
The companies raised £1.8 million by cold-calling customers and making exaggerated claims about the investments.
Companies ripped off investors
The Insolvency Service told the court that Pinecom Services and Pine Commodities were run by the same shareholders and directors as the closed firms – Tullett Brown Limited, Foxstone Carr Limited and Carvier Limited.
Insolvency Service company investigations supervisor Chris Mayhew said: “All these companies were about was ripping off customers.”
Mayhew explained that investigators discovered the companies sold carbon credits relating to 11 international projects online and by telephone.
“The companies claimed to make investing simple with plain explanations of complicated investment terms, but these were misleading and included false statements,” he said.
“No one wanted to give advice; they just wanted to make as much money as possible in the quickest time possible. To do this, the tricked people into parting with their cash by saying whatever they could to make a sale.”
Worthless carbon credits sold
The Insolvency Service is urging anyone telephoned to make an investment to hang up on the call because the likelihood is the person phoning is a fraudster.
Carbon credits are documents that let a company emit one tonne of carbon dioxide. The certificates are traded on exchanges.
However, according to the Financial Conduct Authority, which supervises investments, individual investors with a few certificates cannot access the markets, making their investments worthless.
Although certificates may be marked as ‘verified’, different international standards apply to the verification, which means few carbon credits are worth any money to investors because they cannot be sold on.