Serious Fraud Office
Fraudulent duo each sentenced to 11 years’ imprisonment after successful SFO prosecution
Following the SFO’s successful investigation and prosecution, Andrew Nathaniel Skeene (44) and Junie Conrad Omari Bowers (45) were yesterday sentenced at Southwark Crown Court to 11 years’ imprisonment.
When handing down the sentences, His Honour Judge Pegden QC said: “The investors believed that they were buying into an ethical investment scheme which would yield a safe and steady income. But the reality was that you wrote or said things about the schemes which were either false or misleading at the outset or became so, and you failed to correct them.” The Judge highlighted the “serious detrimental impact” the schemes had on investors including some victims being prevented from retiring and suffering “prolonged distress and mental anguish”.
In May this year the SFO secured the convictions of Skeene and Bowers on three counts of conspiracy to defraud and one count of misconduct in the course of winding up a company.
Mr Bowers and Mr Skeene were behind Global Forestry Investments, a fraudulent green investment scheme which scammed around 2,000 investors out of their savings and pensions.
The fraudulent duo encouraged victims to invest in three Brazilian teak tree plantations, claiming they were secure, well-managed, ethical investments that would help protect the Amazon rainforest and support local communities. In reality, little-to-nothing was happening on the ground and the pair enriched themselves with the finances they received.
During the schemes’ operation, Skeene and Bowers collectively withdrew around £750k in cash and spent a further £2 million on retail, luxury and entertainment. Mr Skeene also used investors’ money to fund his own lavish wedding and Mr Bowers bought a Bentley Continental GT.
The Judge commended the “exceptional investigatory work” of two SFO investigators, highlighting the “invaluable analysis” by Richard Middleditch of the extensive communications between the defendants and the meticulous money tracing exercise performed by Richard Mills MBE.
Lisa Osofsky, Director of the Serious Fraud Office, yesterday said:
“Today’s sentencing warns fraudsters that if they choose to play fast and loose with others’ hard-earned savings or pensions, we will pursue them and they will be held accountable for their crimes.
“This is the first of seven cases we are taking to trial this year. Over the next six months we will prosecute a further 18 defendants for alleged fraud, valued at over £500 million.”
Notes to Editors:
- The Serious Fraud Office fights complex financial crime to deliver justice for victims and protect the UK’s reputation as a safe place to do business. We investigate and prosecute the most serious or complex cases of fraud, bribery and corruption.
- The SFO investigation into Global Forestry Investments was announced on 25 February 2015. For more details, see our case page and relevant press releases.
- Global Forestry Investments established three teak tree investment schemes in Brazil, known as Belem Sky Plantation, Para Sky Plantation and Para Grosso Sky Plantation.
- The Brazilian Ministério Público Federal provided extensive help to the SFO’s investigation pursuant to mutual legal assistance requests, including with interviews of various Brazilian witnesses across two trips the SFO team made to Brazil.
- The Judge imposed ten year director disqualification orders on Skeene and Bowers, to run concurrent to existing orders and expire in 2032.
- Confiscation proceedings will take place at a later date.
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