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Sustainable Agroenergy

Sustainable AgroEnergy: yet another failed green energy investment scheme

Sustainable AgroEnergy (SAE), part of the Sustainable Growth Group (SGG), sold itself as an ethical project the aimed to provide an alternative to fossil fuels by producing green biofuel from jatropha trees. Their investment scheme centred around the cultivation of these trees on plantations in Cambodia.

The project looked exotic, ethical and environmentally friendly – a popular mix with investors. It may have been all of these things, but it was also disastrous for those who chose to back the project with a great deal of money being lost in a short space of time.

Investors sold on false claims

Slick-talking sales specialists convinced potential investors into transferring money from their safe, secure and perfectly performing pensions into Self-Invested Personal Pensions (SIPPs). Their glossy marketing materials, exotic locations and ethical credentials made the opportunity look very appealing and many were tempted by the offer.

Investors were assured that all they had to do was sit back and wait for the money to roll in. However, as with many other ill-fated SIPP investments, this wasn’t the scenario that played out.

Serious Fraud Office intervention

In 2012, the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) got involved with SAE, imposing an SFO freeze order before carrying out further investigations into their investment scheme. By the time the dust settled, three directors of SAE had received lengthy prison sentences and one faced a confiscation order to the value of more than a million pounds. All three were also banned from being company directors for many years.

The SFO ruled investors were deliberately misled into thinking:

  • SAE owned land in Cambodia.
  • The plantation contained large numbers of already-planted jatropha trees.
  • Investments were insured against crop failure. 

In reality, all of these statements were untrue and the judge in the subsequent court case described the scheme as a “thickening quagmire of dishonesty”. Strong words, but ones that accurately describe the SAE case.

SAE, the ER Network & Vita Investment Planning Ltd

Incorporated back in 2011 and dissolved in July 2014, Vita Investment Planning was set up by Eddie Chisholm and Rhona Galbraith who were directors of the ER Network – a “network” within Quilter formerly Intrinsic.

A substantial number of mortgage advisors within the ER Network were actively involved in the advice and recommendation of Unregulated Collective Investment Schemes (UCIS) via SIPPs including Sustainable AgroEnergy.

Unsurprisingly, the ER Network now have a number of Financial Ombudsman decisions upheld against the poor advice they gave in relation to these investments.

Investors left facing an uncertain future

SAE’s biofuel project was an extremely high-risk investment that should only have been targeted at sophisticated, experienced investors who understood the risks involved and had a high capacity for loss. Instead, it was aimed at people who could only invest their life savings or pension pots, and who couldn’t afford to lose either.

More than 250 hard-working, honest individuals had been taken in by SAE’s misleading promotion. They are now left facing an uncertain future when they should have been facing a comfortable retirement.

At Beat the Banks, we understand how hard it is to pick yourself up after a dreadful setback like this. We have supported countless individuals who have been taken advantage of and lost money through investment schemes like SAE’s and we’re ready to help you too.

Call our team on 0800 193 1234 for a free, no-obligation chat about your case.

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