A company director has been disqualified by the High Court for conning investors out of at least £13.3m through a number of scams which claimed to invest in renewable energy.
Ian Hamilton, the director of Industry RE Ltd, a company which claimed to help reduce carbon emissions and develop sources of renewable energy, operated a number of investment scams between 2009 and 2013.
The company ran two principal schemes, both of which have been branded “dishonest” by HM Revenue & Customs.
One was a money circulation scheme selling land for an ‘Eco Resort’ that Mr Hamilton claimed would be built in Dominica, but was in fact land which the company never owned.
Investors were promised a return of 80 per cent on their investment within two years, and Industry RE managed to rake in £7.6m from those who signed up, none of whom have received any return.
In another scheme, investors thought they were purchasing carbon credits, which Industry RE said it would repurchase within 12 months for 30 per cent more than investors had paid, and sell the credits onwards to a connected company in Dubai.
Industry RE had made payments totalling more than £8.6m to customers which claimed to be investment returns, but the investigation found the firm had not engaged in any of the claimed investments and did not receive any profits that it could use to pay investment returns to investors.
A smaller scheme involved ‘solar bonds’ which promised a return of 10 per cent per annum for five years, when investors were told they would get all their money back.
However, the firm did not invest in any such solar scheme and did not receive any profits from which it could make payments to its investors, with payments of “interest” actually made from the deposits of newer investors in a Ponzi scheme arrangement.
Industry RE was also involved a subcontracted telesales operation to “cold call” members of the public, selling ‘alternative investments’ in a variety of projects.
An investigation by a specialist team of the Insolvency Service found that the 37-year-old director had “systematically” misled consumers and encouraged them to give him money with the promise of returns.
HM Revenue & Customs has now wound up the company.
A number of ‘customer updates’ were circulated by Industry RE between December 2012 and August 2013, where Mr Hamilton said the firm had relocated to Dubai and gave a number of purported explanations why the company was delayed in making payments to customers.
In December 2012, more than £1m was transferred from the company’s bank account in a single day.
Mr Hamilton told the specialist unit at the Insolvency Service the money was being held by a connected company in Dubai, but he failed to provide any information to support his version of events, or to cooperate in any way with the official receiver or the liquidator.