There are some pension investment schemes which are badly run, which are misguided and which may even be unwittingly illegal. There are a few, however, that were thoroughly illegal, and that duped hundreds of innocent investors along the way. One such case involved a company called Sustainable AgroEnergy (SAE), part of the Sustainable Growth Group (SGG).
SAE recruited investors for a scheme that involved the cultivation of jatropha trees in Cambodia. The trees can be harvested for biofuel which can be used in diesel engines. It all sounded very exotic, very ethical and very environmentally friendly. It may have been all these things, but it was also tragic for the victims. A great deal of money was lost in a very short space of time.
Potential investors were talked into transferring their money from their safe, secure pensions into SIPPs (Self-Invested Personal Pensions). From there, the money was invested into SAE and Belem Sky Plantation. All that was left for the investor to do was sit back and wait for the cash to come rolling in. Needless to say, this wasn’t the scenario that played out.
By 2012, the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) got involved, imposing an SFO freeze order before carrying out further investigations. 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.
So many false claims made in a bid to obtain money
The SFO ruled that investors were deliberately misled into thinking SAE owned land in Cambodia (it didn’t), that the plantation contained large numbers of already-planted jatropha trees (it didn’t) and that investments were insured against crop failure (they weren’t). The judge in the inevitable court case described the scheme as a “thickening quagmire of dishonesty”.
Harsh words indeed, but they were indicative of what went on in the SAE case. This was an extremely high risk investment that should only have been targeted at sophisticated, experienced investors who knew and understood the risks involved. Instead, it was aimed at people who could only invest either their life savings or their pension pots, and who couldn’t afford to lose either.
The people involved were unscrupulous in the way they pushed their scheme on investors. Fast-talking sales specialists had all the patter, all the confidence and all the answers. Add in the glossy marketing materials, the ethical basis of the investment and the exotic locations and you can see why so many fell for the temptation. It seemed too good to be true, after all.
We all know now, of course, that it was. More than 250 hard-working, honest individuals had been taken in, and all of them now face an uncertain future when they should be facing a comfortable retirement. As far back as 2010, SAE’s scheme had been identified as financially and ethically questionable, and if it had been aimed at experienced investors they would have been fully aware of that.
It’s not easy to pick yourself up after such a dreadful setback, but we at Beat the Banks may be able to help you. We have helped many others who have been taken advantage of and lost money through investment schemes like the one run by SAE. It only takes a minute to get in touch with us via our online contact form or with a call to our team on 0800 193 1234. Why not get in touch today and let’s see if there is anything that can be done?