A former director for carbon market advisory services at Thomson Reuters has been jailed for 9 years for his part in a £23 million fraud linked to a biofuel investment scheme in Cambodia that led to hundreds of people losing their savings.
James Brunel Whale was one of three men jailed last December for a combined 28 years for their part in the offences committed between Apr. 2011 and Feb. 2012, the UK’s Serious Fraud Office said on its website.
The sentences follow an SFO investigation into Sustainable Growth Group (SGG), including its subsidiary companies Sustainable AgroEnergy plc (SAE) and Sustainable Wealth (UK) Investments Ltd.
Whale, who was director, CEO and chairman of SGG, was hired by Thomson Reuters in May 2012, according to his LinkedIn profile, and worked as a director in the company’s Point Carbon Commodities and Energy Advisory division.
The scheme “focused on the selling and promotion of investment products based on ‘green biofuel’ Jatropha tree plantations in Cambodia,” the SFO said.
“The products were sold to UK investors who invested primarily via self-invested pension plans (SIPPs). These investors 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.”
The men were the first to be charged under the UK’s Bribery Act since it was introduced in 2011.
Presiding Judge Martin 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 SFO said legal proceedings to establish compensation and confiscation orders against the three defendants have commenced.