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Matthew Ames awaits sentencing for fraud

Essex-based Ames, who lived a millionaire’s lifestyle in a gated property with a rented Lamborghini, was found guilty on two counts of fraudulent trading and has had to surrender his passport while on bail.

Essex-based Ames, who lived a millionaire’s lifestyle in a gated property with a rented Lamborghini, was found guilty on two counts of fraudulent trading and has had to surrender his passport while on bail.

The court heard that the investment scheme was so appealing that many famous names were taken in and offered their support, such as James Middleton, brother to HRH the Duchess of Cambridge.

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This seemingly ethical fund, which cited a connection to the Rainforest Alliance – the fund’s designated operational entity – had attracted Mr Middleton with its claims to help protect the Amazonian rainforest.

In fact, during a trade fair in London in 2010, he helped to represent the fund.

In a 24-page document the Forestry for Life scheme stated that it could “guarantee a 12 per cent return for the first three years”, was a “low-risk ethical investment opportunity” and would help to “protect and regrow the rainforests”.

Isleworth Crown Court heard that the scheme achieved none of those aims and the investments did not exist.

Matthew Ames, 38, was found guilty following a jury trial with Judge Paul Dugdale presiding.

One investor caught up by Forestry for Life had been introduced by Ames’ father, David Ames, the founder of the Harlequin property investment schemes, the court heard.

In court, investor David Middleton (no relation to HRH the Duchess of Cambridge), gave evidence, stating he had dealt with David Ames and his business Harlequin.

It was then that Mr Ames Snr told him about his son Matthew and his green projects.

The court heard that David Ames then passed on David Middleton’s details to his son.

According to David Middleton, Matthew Ames then contacted him and eventually persuaded him to sell £75,000 in shares to plough into his other firm, Investor Club.

The court heard that Matthew Ames also hired England World Cup winner Jack Charlton and sport supremo Sir Rodney Walker to promote Forestry for Life and Investor Club, at events.

The company director’s glossy brochures included quotes from Prince Charles and Tony Blair to promote teak plantation schemes in Sri Lanka and an investment in the protection of the Brazilian rainforest.

But no land was ever purchased by Ames’ two companies and not a single tree was ever planted, the court was told.

The court heard that even an elderly investor had been swindled out of £75,000 for a fake tree scheme after claims the teak market was outstripping that of gold and oil.

Ames blew the cash on sports cars, flying first class around the world and staying in luxury villas in the Caribbean, the jury was told.

A jury of six men and six women at Isleworth Crown Court found Ames guilty by majority verdict.