“FTAdviser” Tricked Into Lending the Good Name of the Financial Times to Carbon Credit Scammers

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By Richard Smith

“Carbon credit company hits out at ‘scammers’”, announces FTAdviser, unfortunately neglecting to consider the possibility that the very company doing the hitting out might itself be a scam.

Since this entire FTAdviser piece is, in fact, a transcription of a scammer’s schtick, and I really doubt that the FT wishes to enforce their copyright on that (while sort of hoping they try it), I’ll quote it in full:

After IFAs sounded the alert over a potential carbon credit boiler room operated by Carbon Trace Solutions, another carbon credit company has admitted to problems in its sector.

Validated Carbon Credits said it wanted to warn IFAs about the misrepresentations surrounding carbon credit investments.

The carbon credit company said IFAs needed to ensure credits were visible on a public registry and payment was made direct to the provider or seller of the credits and not to a third party or escrow agent.

It also advised asking about the exit strategy and how and when the credits were going to be sold as there were costs associated with this and it may be necessary to do some work to find someone to sell on the clients behalf or the client may need to open a trading account and manage themself unless a genuine alternative is available.

Validated Carbon Credits warned against any promise of returns as it claimed carbon credits were spot trades and so there were no fixed or guaranteed returns.

Ellie Richards, director of Validated Carbon Credits, said the company had come across other potential carbon credit boiler rooms.

She said: “We applaud your efforts in exposing the scammers who are destroying the industry and ripping off innocent victims with their clever sales patter.

“As a genuine company we have come across these and more. If it sounds too good to be true it usually is.”

So there we are: Validated Carbon Credits has wangled its little mention in the FT. The self-description (“genuine company”) goes unchallenged.

Let’s carry out a spot of due diligence, shall we? It’ll take just a few minutes. First, take a quick look at the Validated Carbon Credits web site, whose very design emits an unmistakable and unpleasing aroma; of rat. Validated Carbon Credits turns out to have a proxy domain name registration; there’ll be no quick discovery of the underlying owner’s identity, then. It’s an odd way for a “genuine company” to register.

Next it turns out that Validated Carbon Credits is a trading name of Baron Traders Limited. Down at the bottom of the web page, we read the dread words:

Baron Traders Limited is a Gibraltar registered company, Number 105368. Registered Office: Don House, 30 – 38 Main Street, Gibraltar. Baron Traders is VeriSign Trusted. The identity of BARON TRADERS has been confirmed using official records.

For American readers, here are a few Gibraltar stories plucked from, well, I’ll be damned, FTAdviser. You can get the gist from the headlines:

UK-based firms shut down by High Court for aiding share dealing boiler rooms (Two UK-based firms, Chesteroak Limited (Chesteroak) and Bingen Investments Limited (Bingen), incorporated in Gibraltar, have been placed into compulsory liquidation by the High Court for assisting share boiler rooms, the FSA said in a statement.)

Tax havens named and shamed

Diary: Don’t fear Gibraltar’s watchdog

Next, we look for Baron Traders Limited at Opencorporates. We get no hits at all for Gibraltar companies (there’s a UK company that was set up in 1995 and dissolved in 1997, so that doesn’t match either), so we look instead for every Gibraltar company with “Baron” in its name. This is what we get:

Um, I think that means there’s no company called “Baron Traders Limited”, Number 105368, in Gibraltar.

For what it’s worth, the local financial services regulator has never heard of Baron Traders Limited either: according to the Financial Services Commission search, the only financial company active in Gibraltar with “Baron” in its name is the tax efficient investment company Baronsmead.

We’re five minutes in and the FT Adviser story is holed below the waterline. The bit’s between this blogger’s teeth now, so it’s on to Google. For leads, we’ve got Baron Traders Limited and we’ve got Ellie Richards. Via Baron Traders Limited we turn up another person, James Richards, on LinkedIn. Here’s a rough and ready paste of the highlights of his resumé:

James Richards’s Experience

Green and Ethical Investments. Carbon Credits – Purchase & Sales

Baron Traders. LazyBoy Investment. Green Investment (Sole Proprietorship)

Sole Proprietorship; 1-10 employees; Financial Services industry

January 2008Present (3 years 11 months)

Managing Director

Baron Traders (Sole Proprietorship)

Sole Proprietorship; 1-10 employees; Financial Services industry

March 1993Present (18 years 9 months)

Welcome to Baron Traders.

Negotiable Financial Instruments:

Type of Instruments

Commercial Paper


Corporate Debt Securities

Commercial Paper Outstandings Federal Reserve

Bankers Acceptances


Bank Guarantees for officially supported exports

Zero-Coupon Instruments

Zero Coupons and STRIPS

Fixed Income – Zero Coupon Instruments

Advantages of Convertible Securities

Treasury Bills

Treasury Bills: How Marketable Treasury Securities Really Work

Treasury Bills, Notes &Bonds

Treasury Bills: U.S. Treasury Securities

Certificates of Deposit: Large Negotiable Certificates of Deposit

Certificates of Deposit: Advantages of certificates of deposit (CDs)

Certificates of Deposit Offerings

Certificates of Deposit: Utilizing foreign fixed deposits (CD’s) for credit lines


About Corporate Medium-Term Notes

Repurchase and Reverse Repurchase Agreements

Alternative investments: Managed futures and hedge funds

We are regularly Selling: mtn’s, t-strips, bg’s, investment programs, currency exchange.

We are regularly Buying: MTN’S, T-Strips, BG’s.


Baron Traders Limited (Sole Proprietorship)

Sole Proprietorship; 1-10 employees; Financial Services industry

February 1993Present (18 years 10 months)

Managing Director

Vogue Estates

19932008 (15 years)

Offering Real Estate investments in 17 countries.

That imposing list of securities traded by the nonexistent Baron Trading Limited, with the help of just 1-10 nonexistent employees,  looks exactly like a typical up-front-fee scammer’s mumbo-jumbo. I wonder if anyone fell for it.

Next, let’s check out the new companies this guy claims to be involved with. LazyBoy Investments gives no clear hits. Green Investments gives, of course, an unfilterably vast number of hits. Which leaves Vogue Estates. There’s no sign of a live site called “www.vogueestates.com”, but the wayback machine has this: apparently the first time the Wayback machine ever found it was in June 2007, and it does appear to be the relevant site. Odd, that, since we read elsewhere that:

Founded in 2000, Vogue Estates Ltd includes senior management with over 50 years experience in the Overseas Property sector, with the focus on providing investment properties to clients throughout the UK and Worldwide. The company is based in Strand, Trafalgar Square (London).

Vogue Estates

The overseas property specialists.

Buying a new home is always a big decision, but buying overseas can feel even more daunting.

Vogue Estates has built its business and reputation upon helping every client to find client’s perfect homes abroad and then completing the purchase as quickly and easily as possible. Vogue Estates is a family owned and operated business based in Marbella, Spain. Since Vogue Estates are entirely independent of any builders, bankers or brokers, Clients can always rely on Vogue Estates for completely impartial advice.

The company is managed by James Richards who has been involved in the Overseas Property business for many years. James Richards is well trained to look after the company, having previously worked for a large Blue Chip Company.

With a staff body of 1000 fully qualified employees, Vogue Estates Ltd has a growing team, qualified to an extremely high standard. With state of the art facilities and fully qualified staff, the company delivers a professional real estate to an International level. The service is designed to be relaxing and enjoyable, helping clients to find the right Investment / Lifestyle property.

So Vogue Estates started in 2000, grew to a size of 1,000 employees in multinational locations, and yet didn’t bother with a web site until 2007. And some time shortly after that, it vanished, leaving only its wayback machine traces. Remarkable.

Time to go to Opencorporates again to check on Vogue Estates, methinks, where we find five companies with some connection to that name, none of which was established in 2000 and none of which specialises in overseas property sales.

I think Vogue Estates is a figment of Mr James Richards’ fertile imagination.

The final exhibit is the result of Googling the string “On February 19th 2008, he started a trading account with $100,000”, in which we find James Richards spamming numerous message boards, etcetera, with minor variations of the following text:

Let me know if your interested in an introduction to this trader?

Why trade the markets yourself when there´s a world class trader ready to do it for you?

Having personally invested with this trader (and made handsome profits) I would like to introduce you to another type of investment, aside from real estate, which will greatly enhance any portfolio.

He trades the worlds financial markets for himself, and a handful of private clients.

On February 19th 2008, he started a trading account with $100,000.

On March 6th, at 6.15pm just 3 weeks later…. He closed it at $422,952.98

That fund is closed.

He is now accepting clients for his next trading period.

Full documentation with audited facts and figures can be provided upon request

For more information on how he could trade your account for you – call or email me today.

James Richards
Managing Director
Vogue Estates

So much for James Richards.

What of Ellie Richards, who has the chutzpah to call the FT and spin them that indignant story about scammers? Two half-sightings hint at a possible modus operandi. First, here she is apparently dropping another bunch of scammers in it by ratting them out to Ripoff Report. It reads as if some sort of score is being settled. Second, here is a complaint about her activities by some other indignant anonymous person (who gets her husband’s name wrong):

Has anyone ever had this person working for them ?. Unfortunately, we discovered this information after our company database was manually copied by this person whom then went onto try and sell undervalued poor quality products to unsuspecting clients. This posting is to only prevent other companies in the future suffering a similar experience and prevent members of the public from losing their hard earned cash. How does she do it ? Having been unlucky enough to have employed her in the past, and having discovered both to my misfortune and that of other companies, that she has a history of joining telesales based companies both in the UK and Spain, then over a period of several months copying their client database before moving on. After leaving this company, this person in conjunction with her husband then calls the clients and offers them similar products to which the client was originally interested in.

I suppose the purloined mailing list is now being put to work on a Carbon Credit scam. With, of course, the inadvertent assistance of the FT’s publicity for Validated Carbon Credits. Perhaps the FT shouldn’t feel so bad: the specialist news agency Point Carbon News fell for Ellie Richards too, in the course of reporting on fraud concerns expressed by MarkIt, who have a role in running a big Carbon Credits registry. I do hope MarkIt have denied registry access to Validated Carbon Credits, or Baron Trading Limited, since they’re both utterly bogus. I suspect that the FT will want to follow up their original story, too.

Update 11/11/11: Followup from FTAdviser. They point out that I have been misspelling their name.

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  1. nickj

    “joining telesales based companies both in the UK and Spain, then over a period of several months copying their
    client database before moving on.”

    Sweet! I’m not crying any tears for either of these parties, we get these parasites ringing us all the time.

    1. tawal

      Um, you looked up Baron “Trading” Limited but its name was Baron “Traders” Limited. Please try your database with “Traders”.

        1. Richard Smith Post author

          Er, no:

          a) that is a UK company, not a Gibraltar one.
          b) it was dissolved in 1997!

          Thanks anyway.

      1. fred streeter

        “Um, you looked up Baron “Trading” Limited but its name was Baron “Traders” Limited.”

        Even if “Trading” is not merely a typo, searching on “Baron” alone would have returned “Baron Traders Limited”, had it existed, wouldn’t it.

      2. Richard Smith Post author

        Thanks, although as fred streeter correctly remarks, that makes absolutely no difference to the gist of the post. I have fixed the typos.

  2. okie farmer

    That’s some good work, Richard. The whole carbon credit business smells to high hell. When I found out that in Indonesia rain forest was being bulldozed to make way for palm oil trees, I also found out that these new palm oil plantations were selling carbon credits for all the palm oil trees they were planting. Gave me the idea of bulldozing about a thousand mature pecan trees and replanting with young grafts and selling carbon credits on the new trees. I didn’t do it, but I thought about it.

  3. chuck roast

    Holy mackrel, Andy! There’s a carbon tradin’ scam goin’ on! Who knew?

    An’ all this time I thought that Kerry-Lieberman would save the polar bears. I know…the Euro Carbon Market was a massive bungle (according to the pink paper anyway), but that was just an aberration. The American Power Act will be the answer to our prayers – clean coal, carbon offsets, subsidized nuclear power, big-credits for important economic sectors – just for starters. And with a design largely thanks to NGOs funded by friends of Goldman Sachs, and regulated by those masters of oversight – the CFTC – what’s not to like?

    There you go, Suzie Creamcheese.

  4. Fiver

    While I’m sure there are as many carbon credit frauds as any other form of scam, the more important point is that the whole notion of carbon credits is INHERENTLY a scam – it serves only to shift around emissions sourcing at best, while completely BS “offsets” actually allow existing facilities to continue to vent GH gases at will.

    But what else would you expect from a Harvard/Goldman Sachs/Clinton Admin brainstorm other than converting bullshit to gold? That they sold the idea to Europe only for Clinton to abandon it is instructive.

    Hard caps with an escalating carbon tax with offsets for the less advantaged is the only possible way to phase in real change.

    But since nobody within miles of a position of power is serious about doing anything REAL, I fully expect our next bubble, the foundations of which are being laid with a gargantuan money-print coming, to be Bullshit Green – every promise of “Green Tech” imaginable funded, a hundred “miracles” rolled out, stocks to the Moon and back, and more – all left to the “Market”. And thus, uncoordinated, aimed at nothing, the entire effort falls 90% short and the precious time needed to REALLY convert is gone.

  5. Karen Johnson

    It´s obvious your posting is not only slanderous but based on pure conjecture without any circumstantial evidence whatsoever. Why is it you don´t have a “contact us” link? Did you even bother contacting the company / individuals to try and establish some facts?

    1. Richard Smith Post author

      Hello Karen,

      Since I know that James Richards is a liar, and Ellie Johnson is a liar, why on earth would I go out of my way to contact them? I’d just get told more lies.

      I don’t think my post is the least bit slanderous.

      Produce some evidence that I am wrong.

    2. JCC

      Beautiful, Richard. Not only that, but she’s right, no “circumstantial evidence whatsoever”… just facts :-)

  6. rotter

    American style financial services-grifting scams and “multi level marketing” cults and all manner of trash have become the New Age in Britain and Europe. No wonder Communism failed. Besides having the entire force of The American CIA, and State department, and the vigorous backing of the unified classes of American financial and media Oligarchs, waging constant war and sabotage, it was put into practice mainly by the daffy, hyper-ideological Europeans.

  7. James Richards

    We are writing in response to some poisonous, but more importantly, completely incorrect diatribe you have written about our company. We do not know who you are or what your motives are but what you have published is completely without substance, has no evidence to back up your wild allegations and is ultimately libellous and defamatory. Our company is registered in Gibraltar and our Articles of Incorporation can be provided to anyone on request. We are a VeriSign trusted company and we are contactable by phone and e-mail. However, since you are clearly not capable of finding the truth you have failed to find us registered (how much do you know about Gibraltar registered companies anyway when you are located in Canada?) and you have never made any contact with us direct. Is there a reason for this? Usually when someone has a grievance with a company or individual, the first port of call is to try to address the situation direct. If you have the courage of your convictions why are you hiding behind the internet with no way of anyone communicating with you? We, therefore request that you provide this information so that our lawyers can contact you direct to address this situation you have created. We will be pursuing you aggressively through the proper legal channels and expect a full and public apology and punitive damages. We are completely above board, do not handle any client funds and work with a highly credible, long established UK company who have been active in the global carbon markets for a number of years. We introduce clients to them should they wish to invest or offset in carbon. Nothing more, nothing less. We would be most interested to know where you have evidence that we have scammed anyone. In Gibraltar we are under the watchful eye of the FSC (similar to the FSA in the UK) and so it would not be in our interest to mislead clients in any way. In fact, given the number of rogue companies selling carbon credits out there, it is most likely that we have lost sales through telling it like it is and not making it up in order to get a quick sale.

    Perhaps, given the situation you have brought about, we should also consider contacting all the entities who advertise on your site and explain that you are now at the centre of legal proceedings due to the entirely unfounded, libellous and defamatory garbage that you have published. Please note that Yves Smith, or Susan Webber, whatever she prefers to be called, as the Principal of Aurora Advisors, Inc. will also be receiving this e-mail.

    1. skippy

      Wouldn’t be easier to just publish all your bonafides here, in public, you know, show everyone how wrong Richard is?

      Skippy..Nope straight to threats of litigation and advertisers (clue its Google mate, knock your self out on that one). Prove your case in the public arena, shouldn’t be hard for a upstanding mob. BTW http://www.verisign.com.au/ …cough you can buy the seal ROFLOL. And you use_that_as proof of your creditability, you bought something?

    2. Andrew not the Saint

      I think you should go directly to the Canadian High Court. And if that doesn’t work you can pay some Royal Mounties to “take care” of Yves.

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