TONY HETHERINGTON: Can I trust these offers for my carbon credits with advance payments demanded?
Broken promises: George Burbidge has run a series of failed firms
Tony Hetherington is Financial Mail on Sunday’s ace investigator, fighting readers corners, revealing the truth that lies behind closed doors and winning victories for those who have been left out-of-pocket. Find out how to contact him below.
J. C. writes: Over the past two to three years, I have received offers for my carbon credits, which I bought for £16,000. I have rejected offers of as much as £24,000 because each time the buyers wanted me to pay in advance for some sort of bond. I have now been approached by Taylor Marshall & Associates Ltd. I am inclined to reject this offer too, but am I right to do so?
When you contacted me you believed that Taylor Marshall was also after an upfront fee, in exactly the same way as the fly-by-night firms which have contacted you in the past. You believed this because of the sequence of events.
You were called by Taylor Marshall, based in Newport Pagnell, Buckinghamshire, with an offer of help to recover cash you had invested in rip-off carbon credits. You then received a letter from the company saying it operated on a no-win, no-fee basis.
But you then received another call from someone who referred to a ‘recent letter’. He told you to expect £24,154 for your near-worthless carbon credits, but you would have to pay £950 upfront to what he described as a ‘credit house’.
You assumed this was a follow-up call from Taylor Marshall because its letter was the only one you had received about your investment. But the company has told me: ‘Taylor Marshall does not request any payment from a client prior to the commencement of any claim and fees are only charged if a claim has been successful.’
This assurance came from the company’s owner, George Burbidge. I did ask him how he knew you were a victim of a carbon credits scam in the first place, but he did not explain.
I also asked him who he could claim against, since all the scam firms that sold carbon credits seem to have disappeared, or have been ordered to close.
Burbidge replied that he hoped to ‘make a claim against the FCA’, though I doubt if the Financial Conduct Authority, which does not regulate carbon credits, would be happy to fork out.
‘We are not prepared to discuss this matter any further,’ he added. Really? I let Burbidge know this was not the first time his name had crossed my desk. He was the sole director of Thornton Ridge Land Developments Ltd, a land banking company which sold house-size plots of greenfield land in Northamptonshire as an investment.
In 2009 the local authority warned: ‘The land does not have any residential development value whatsoever at the current time and the district council as the local planning authority would strongly resist any planning application for the erection of one or more dwellings on any of the parcels currently being offered for sale.’
Burbidge’s company failed to file accounts, which were legally due, and it was compulsorily struck off by Companies House.
Burbidge also ran Verity Claims Ltd which asked victims of solar panel scams for £495 upfront so it could sue the Government for compensation for them. That also failed to file accounts and came under investigation by Trading Standards.
Officials at Companies House began moves to have the company struck off, but Burbidge got in ahead of them and put it into liquidation.
Burbidge then decided he would discuss the matter further. When he talked about claiming from the FCA, he really meant the Financial Services Compensation Scheme, he said, on the grounds that while the companies which ripped you off were nothing to do with the watchdog, your paperwork might have been handled by a separate trust company, which may have come under the compensation umbrella.
One reader said they had an account with Barclays for years, but in April more than £19,000 of their savings were moved to something called ‘Reconcile’
He ended by warning me: ‘In the unlikely event that you decide to publish unsubstantiated defamatory statements, we will be taking the appropriate steps through the courts.’
Happily of course, none of this is either unsubstantiated or defamatory, so the courts need not be troubled.
If Barclays pays £2,000 for this mix-up, then I’ll eat my words
S. Q. writes: I have had an account with Barclays for years, but in April more than £19,000 of my savings were moved to something called ‘Reconcile’. I found Barclays had placed my account under review and realised I was being investigated, which I found absurd. The money was returned, but I was told to bank elsewhere. So I opened an account at NatWest. Now Barclays has closed my accounts, withholding more than £17,000 in savings and £200 in my current account.
I have long been critical of a system which lets banks close customers’ accounts, with hints of wrongdoing, but then bans those banks from producing any evidence that customers can contest.
What you describe suggests you are suspected of money laundering. Naturally, Barclays would not comment on this, but did agree to release your funds.
Sadly, it made a mess. You told me Barclays sent a banker’s draft to take to your branch, but the branch refused to honour it because, of course, your account had been closed.
I contacted head office and this was quickly put right, but you then claimed £2,000 to £3,000 compensation for distress, inconvenience and sleepless nights. Barclays has offered £100. Personally, I would have suggested £200, so if you succeed in claiming £2,000 or more, let me know and I will eat the next edition of The Mail on Sunday.
If you believe you are the victim of financial wrongdoing, write to Tony Hetherington at Financial Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TS or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Because of the high volume of enquiries, personal replies cannot be given. Please send only copies of original documents, which we regret cannot be returned.