IFA among four charged by SFO over £23m biofuel fraud

An IFA and three other British nationals connected to biofuel investment group Sustainable AgroEnergy have been charged by the Serious Fraud Office over an alleged conspiracy to commit a £23m fraud, in a case that has seen the first charges brought under the new Bribery Act.

The value of the alleged fraud is approximately £23m and the offences are said to have taken place between April 2011 and February 2012.

Among the group of four men, all of whom are British nationals, is Stuart Stone, 28, of Shropshire, who is described as an IFA associated with biofuel investment promoter Sustainable AgroEnergy. Mr Stone is listed as inactive on the Financial Services Register.

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The other three men are:

• Gary West, 52, of Hertfordshire, the former director and chief commercial officer of Sustainable AgroEnergy plc;

• James Whale, 38, of West Sussex, the former chief executive of Sustainable AgroEnergy plc; and

• Fung Fong Wong, 57, of Middlesex, the former financial controller of Sustainable AgroEnergy plc.

The SFO announced it has brought charges of conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation and conspiracy to furnish false information, contrary to section 1 of the Criminal Law Act 1977.

Mr West, Mr Stone and Mr Wong have also been charged with offences of making and accepting a financial advantage contrary to the Bribery Act 2010. The bribery charges against the trio are the first to be brought by the SFO under the Bribery Act 2010.

The four will appear before Westminster Magistrates Court on 23 September 2013.

The SFO is investigating the activities of Sustainable Growth Group, holding company for Sustainable AgroEnergy and Sustainable Wealth Investments, in connection with biofuel products involving Jatropha tree plantations in South East Asia.

The SGG group of companies were placed in administration in March 2012.

The management receiver of SGG, Chantrey Vellacott, previously told FTAdviser that 2,000 investors may have lost around £40m through investing in the biofuel investment company.