Global investigation results in double conviction for fraudsters

Two company directors have been found guilty of fraud over fake investment schemes in Brazil, which saw investors defrauded of £37 million.

A Serious Fraud Office (SFO) investigation, conducted with assistance from partner agencies across the globe, revealed that Andrew Skeene and Junie Bowers had deceived around 2,000 investors worldwide.

The pair of fraudsters presented Global Forestry Investments (GFI) as a secure, well-managed ethical investment scheme that would help protect the Amazon rainforest and support local communities.

However, the SFO believed that the pair were “enriching themselves” with investors’ savings and pensions.

The SFO started its investigation into GFI in 2017 and brought charges against the duo in 2019. The directors were later disqualified by the Insolvency Service after it found they paid £13 million of investors’ money into their bank accounts.

A spokeswoman for the SFO said that its international investigation exposed an intricate web of money transfers, forged documents and invented identities used to scam pensioners and savers out of their money under the false pretence of environmental protection.

Skeene and Bowers were found guilty on three counts of conspiracy to defraud and one count of misconduct while winding up a company.

They each received a jail term of 11 years at Southwark Crown Court on 15 June.

Roger Isaacs, Forensic Partner at Milsted Langdon, said: “Often where complex fraud is suspected, forensic accountants play a crucial role in tracking funds from victims to perpetrators.

Increasingly legislation, such as that which introduced the concept of an Unexplained Wealth Order, has had the effect of shifting the burden of proof onto those accused.  Defendants can be forced to show that they have acquired their assets legitimately.  If they cannot do so, they can be faced with a presumption of guilt.

It is for that reason that a detailed assessment of the money trial can become pivotal in proving guilt or innocence.”

Posted in Blog, Forensic, The Forensic Blog.