Two directors of Brazil teak investment firm convicted in London

LONDON, May 31 (Reuters) – Two company directors behind a fraudulent green investment scheme in Brazil were convicted on Tuesday by a London jury of defrauding about 2,000 investors out of around 37 million pounds ($47 million).

Andrew Skeene and Omari Bowers were found guilty of three counts of conspiracy to defraud and one count of misconduct in the course of winding up a company at London’s Southwark Crown Court, the UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO) said.

The men will be sentenced on Wednesday.

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Timur Rustem, managing partner at law firm Rustem Guardian who is representing Skeene, said he was disappointed with the verdict and that his client was considering an appeal. A lawyer for Bowers was not immediately available for comment.

The two men had presented Global Forestry Investments, which established three Brazilian teak tree investment schemes known as Belem Sky Plantation, Para Sky Plantation and Para Grosso Sky Plantation, as a secure, ethical investment scheme that would protect the Amazon rainforest and support local communities.

But SFO Director Lisa Osofsky said a seven-year 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”.

The SFO, which said its team had travelled to Brazil twice during the investigation, thanked Brazil’s Federal Prosecution Office, among other agencies, for its extensive help.

Bowers and Skeene said on their LinkedIn page that they co-founded Global Forestry Investments about 15 years ago, buying land in Brazil for the “sustainable planting and harvesting of teak trees for investment purposes”.

The company had offices in Sao Paulo, Brazil, London, Dubai and Abu Dhabi, according to LinkedIn.

($1 = 0.7948 pounds)

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Reporting by Kirstin Ridley;
Editing by Sandra Maler

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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