This is a painful one to admit, but today I am reporting that we believe we have been taken in by a massive scam involving Belem Sky Forestry and the GFXI Forex, both of which were run by Omari Bowers and Andrew Skeene. This is a scam alert to stop anyone else from being duped into a scheme involving at least 300 plus people in the Belem Sky Forestry “ethical” investment, and the other 400 or so folks who got involved in the FOREX one, like ourselves.
Right upfront I will say that Omari Bowers and Andrew Skeene were being investigated by the fraud squad at, initially:
City Of London Police
Christopher Glover, Fraud Team 3, tel: 0208 670 16924
It has since been bumped up to the serious fraud squad (SFO). Please note: We have written proof that the serious fraud squad are still investigating this pair as of March 2014.
Ethical Forestry Scam
This scam was all about a so called ethical investment – Global Forestry Investments (GFI)- for plots on teak plantations in Brazil and other locations. It is claimed that the farmers who owned the land, and some agents, have also been duped, as payments due to them were allegedly not made either, which destroyed farmers’ local reputations. The land was resold several times since the 2010 investment start. One of the classic lines told to potential investors is that the trustees themselves invested in the scheme. This was true of the FOREX version of the scam too.They use another ruse involving paying small amounts back sporadically to investors who shout loudly,so as to keep investors quiet, and on the hook.
Emerald Knight, I’m told, were one of the major companies flogging plot shares. There is no evidence that the forestry lots are being adequately and professionally managed, and requests for proof of same from Skeene and Bowers have fallen on deaf ears.
The total in the IVA’s that were brought before the courts back in December & January were £5.6M. They have been reported to the CSSF (Commission de surveillance du Secteur Financier)in Luxembourg, who are the regulators of their Luxembourg registered funds.
FOREX Scam/ Fraud
There are numerous people who were introduced to Andrew Skeene and Omari Bowers via Proximity Ventures business, trading as GFXI Limited (Global Forex Investments) via Goswell Square Capital, a trading partner of GFXI. Others, like ourselves, went through a regulated IFA.
Here’s our own story.
We were introduced to the FOREX initially via our IFA, who we have worked with for many years, he met a chap called Raj Shastri ( also known as Raj Von Badlo- we since found out). It was Raj, who was getting investors into their scheme via speaking events and mass promotion methods, for a cut of the profits as commission. You may know Raj, he touts himself as a property expert and millionaire investor. He claims “he was duped by Omari & Andrew” and that he is owed hundreds of thousands of pounds in commissions.
However, he has also been instrumental in keeping investors from speaking out against the pair. We have signed documents and emails to prove all that we say here, I am not slandering anyone or making things up. Bowers and Skeene skipped town for a while, leaving Raj to carry the can with the FCA. There are some 400 plus people involved and a total of about £5.7m- so far.
We Checked Its Safety As An Investment
From our point of view, we did everything we could to ensure it was safe. We invested £20k ( the minimum amount allowed) into a regulated product, via a regulated IFA. We went on to test this investment for over a year to check that the returns and other aspects were as promised. Everything was running fine. This regulated product later morphed into an unregulated one through a series of deals with their new ‘finance providers.’ Investors were unaware, were deliberately misinformed of the back office changes regarding regulation. Bowers & Skeene continued to get new investors on board.
Suddenly they stopped paying the interest, came up with a boat load of excuses as to why, and, what ensued, was delay after delay while they “sorted out their back office problems.”
Two Years And Still Waiting
Now, more than 2 years later, we still have had no interest payments, and, Bowers & Skeene will not release the initial investment funds either. Twice, we have been brought into London, at their request, to meet with them for yet more apologies and promises of payment in ’4-6 weeks.’
From the investors we have managed to track down, this is a common story.Some investors in the Belem Sky were dragged all the way to Dubai to set up new accounts so they could be “paid quicker and easier.” It made no difference, and was a total waste of time and money for those investors.
Raj Von Badlo ( Shastri, also known as Raj Paul) is going through his own bankruptcy hearing and is due in court mid April 2014. We know people testifying at his hearing. The FCA are also investigating Raj for fraud. Raj was involved in a second FOREX scam when the youngest trader from the GFXI – Alex Hope- set up on his own and went on to break regulations. Alex is now in jail.
Raj Shastri / Von Badlo is still out there speaking at ‘wealth’ events to scam even more folks out of their cash. Raj Von Badlo has been accused by FCA of a total of ten offences relating to a scheme that purported to trade foreign exchange on behalf of others. It was because of Alex Hope that the FCA finally connected the dots and started looking into Bowers/ Skeene.
Andrew Skeene’s personal insolvency hearing and IVA application was on January 7th 2014 at 1 Moorgate, London. As was already agreed back on the 12th December at the hearing for Omari Bowers, the creditors accepted the offer of 40 pence in the pound spread over 3 years. However, the first deadline for the end of January passed without payment (!) and it was extended by a month.
I note that only since the scam website was reinstated, lawyers letters re ‘defamation’ have been sent out to the investors from Bowers/ Skeene. I’m sure mine will be in the post.
For those being threatened with defamation, please note; If they want to ‘sue you for damages or loss of revenue’ due to content shared publicly, they will need to PROVE loss of earnings before any court will look at them or consider a defamation claim.
Also, intimidating people with lawyers does not make them look too ‘ethical’ as they keep telling everyone they are. However, should they wish to pay us back, we will happily amend any blog to reflect that- AFTER we’ve been paid and the money has cleared in our account.
**update March 2014**
The scam website has now been taken offline again. My understanding is that they were paid to do so, however, another investor intends to replace it.
Meanwhile, you can download two pdfs here of collated information gathered from real investors who commented with their knowledge on the now closed skeenebowersscam.com web site.