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City directors convicted in £23m investment fraud

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Three men have been convicted of fraud as part of the Serious Fraud Office’s (SFO) investigation into a £23m ‘green’ energy investment.

The convictions relate to the Sustainable Growth Group (SGG) and its subsidiary companies Sustainable AgroEnergy (SAE) and Sustainable Wealth (UK) Investments (SWI).

Gary Lloyd West, former director and chief commercial officer of SAE, James Brunel Whale, former director, chief executive officer and chairman of SGG, and Stuart John Stone, director of SJ Stone Ltd, a sales agent of unregulated pension and investment products, were all convicted of fraud-related offences at Southwark Crown Court.

The SFO’s criminal investigation focused on the selling and promotion of SAE investment products based on ‘green biofuel’ Jatropha tree plantations in Cambodia.

The green biofuel products were sold to UK investors who invested primarily via self-invested pension plans (SIPPs).

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

Commenting on the verdict, director of the SFO, David Green QC said: “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 [inflicts] on victims and the SFO’s ability and determination to bring criminals to justice.”

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