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Sustainable Agroenergy Plc and Sustainable Wealth Investments UK Ltd

Confiscation orders update

Further to confiscation orders being satisfied for two defendants, James Whale and Stuart Stone, all funds have now been distributed on a pro-rata basis to those investors identified as eligible for compensation. No further claims for compensation are able to be dealt with in respect of any of the defendants in this matter.

Gary West, James Whale and Stuart Stone were convicted, on 5 December 2014 of fraud and bribery offences following the Serious Fraud Office’s investigation into Sustainable Growth Group (‘SGG’) including its subsidiary companies Sustainable AgroEnergy plc (‘SAE’) and Sustainable Wealth (UK) Investments Ltd (‘SWI’).

The investigation focused on the selling and promotion of SAE investment products based on “green biofuel” Jatropha tree plantations in Cambodia. The green biofuel products were sold to UK investors primarily via self-invested pension plans (SIPPs). These individuals were deliberately misled into believing that SAE owned land in Cambodia, that the land was planted with Jatropha trees, and that there was an insurance policy in place to protect investors if the crops failed. West, Whale and Stone were sentenced on 8 December 2014 and when handing down sentence HHJ Beddoe described the fraud as a “thickening quagmire of dishonesty… there were more than 250 victims of relatively modest means some of whom had lost all of their life savings and their homes.” The judge added that the bribery was an aggravating feature.

Gary West, James Whale and Stuart Stone were ordered to pay a confiscation order totalling £1.36m, at a hearing on 27-28 July 2016. The judge ordered that compensation should be paid out of the confiscation amounts.

Further details are shown below.

Outcome of criminal case

Gary West (former Director and Chief Commercial Officer of SAE)

Conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation contrary to s.1 of the Criminal Law Act 1977 (count 1). 

Fraudulent trading, contrary to s. 993 of the Companies Act 2006 (count 2).

Conspiracy to furnish false information, contrary to s.1 of the Criminal Law Act 1977 (count 3).

Two counts of Bribery contrary to s. 2(1) and (2) of the Bribery Act 2010 (counts 5 and 7).

Acquitted by the jury of one count of Bribery contrary to s. 1(1) and (2) of the Bribery Act 2010 (count 8).

James Whale (former Director, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of SGG)

Conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation contrary to s.1 of the Criminal Law Act 1977 (count 1).

Fraudulent trading, contrary to s. 993 of the Companies Act 2006 (count 2).

Stuart Stone (Director of SJ Stone Ltd, a sales agent of unregulated pension and investment products)

Conspiracy to furnish false information, contrary to s.1 of the Criminal Law Act 1977 (count 3).

Two counts of Bribery contrary to s. 1(1) and (2) of the Bribery Act 2010 (counts 4 and 6).

Sentencing

Gary West was sentenced to a total of 13 years’ imprisonment. James Whale was sentenced to a total of 9 years’ imprisonment. Stuart Stone was sentenced to a total of 6 years’ imprisonment.

Disqualification of directors

Gary West and James Whale disqualified as acting as Directors for 15 years; Stuart Stone for 10 years.

Ancillary orders

Serious Crime Prevention Orders were made (section 19 Serious Crime Act 2007) in the case of all three convicted defendants for a period of five years commencing on the date of release from custody.

Appeal

Mr West applied to the Court of Appeal for permission to appeal the length of his sentence; Mr Whale applied for permission to appeal his conviction as well as his sentence. These applications were heard at the Court of Appeal on 17 March and refused on 22 March 2016. Mr Stone made a similar application regarding the length of his sentence which was refused earlier.

Confiscation

At a hearing on 27-28 July 2016, overseen by HHJ Beddoe, Gary West was ordered to pay a £52,805 confiscation order, James Whale to pay £172,952.43 and Stuart Stone to pay £1,141,680. All three were given 3 months each to pay the confiscation orders or to face default sentences of 12 months (West), 2 years (Whale) and 7 years (Stone). The judge ordered that compensation should be paid out of the confiscation amounts.

An application to vary the confiscation order for Mr West was made on 26 June 2017, which resulted in a reduction of £7,986.45 from the order. The total confiscation order for Mr West to pay is now £44,818.55. To date, Mr West has made payments totalling £17,847.62 towards satisfying his confiscation order.

Mr Whale applied to the Crown Court for a certificate of inadequacy, as a result his order was reduced to £154,005.26. Mr Whale has paid his confiscation order in full. Mr Whale applied for leave to appeal his confiscation order which was refused by the Single Judge in January 2017 and has not been renewed by the defendant.

On 7 April 2017, Southwark Crown Court varied Mr Stone’s confiscation order to £1,128,517.89. The order has now been paid in full.

General queries

You received a letter from the SFO in August 2016 setting out from which defendant/s you would be entitled to receive compensation. Your entitlement to compensation is dependent on the date of your investment and the scheme into which you invested.

Two of the defendants (Mr Whale and Mr Stone) have now paid their confiscation orders in full, no further compensation payments will be made in respect of these defendants.

The remaining defendant, Mr West, has not yet satisfied his order. The defendant’s time to pay has expired; the SFO and HMCTS are considering all available enforcement options.

The amount you receive in compensation is proportional to the amount you invested and the amount in which the compensation orders were made. It is not possible to give any timescales in relation to compensation; payments are distributed on a proportional basis by Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service as and when the defendants make payments towards their confiscation orders.

Page published on 10 Mar 2016 | Page modified on 19 Oct 2017