A well-known conservationist and member of the British Royalty is tangled up in a $78 million carbon credit fraud scheme
Ian Swingland, a professor at the University of Kent, allegedly helped investors avoid paying down a tax on tens of millions of dollars worth of assets in a three-year scam involving several other accomplices.
Swingland, who was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2007, used climate change projects as a type of conduit for the scheme. British Royalty bestowed the OBE honor upon him for his contribution to conservationism.
“They were opportunities to invest in research designed to counteract the effects of climate change and to find a cure for HIV,” Julian Christopher, the prosecutor in the case, told reporters. “They were designed to be attractive to people who had a large amount of income that they would rather not pay tax on.”
Swingland was joined in the scheme by hucksters Anthony Blakey, John Banyard, Martin King, and Andrew Bascombe, all of whom were accused of operating “a series of dishonest tax schemes” between 2005 and 2008.
The four supposed tax evaders were involved in “the promotion of a series of dishonest tax schemes” protecting wealthy environmentalist-types from paying the confiscatory tax rates.
The group of schemers allegedly ran the scam by trading carbon credits, so the “money would be invested in research into re-forestation,” according to Christopher. The scheme did not positively affect re-forestation research.
The total amount of tax avoided was supposedly filtered through a so-called “sideways tax relief,” whereby losses from one company are offset by profits from another.
“For it to work and be legitimate the loss has to be made in the course of trade which is being carried out commercially and with a view to making a profit,” Christopher explained.
Christopher described the caper using the example of a banker who is paid a $1.2 million bonus. By parting with around $300,000 the banker, the prosecutor said, could then “loan” the rest of the cash from some other lender.
The banker would only pay out the $300,000 using this complicated money transference rather than the $520,000 he would usually pay in tax.
Swingland’s scheme is similar to a multi-billion euro carbon-tax case in April. French authorities have described the incident, which happened in Paris, France, as “the heist of a century.”
The Paris case had all the pomp and circumstance of a crime thriller — replete with shady deals, offshore accounts, and money laundering. It happened in October 2008 around the same time the European Commission introduced a policy to help curb greenhouse gas emissions. The European Union’s new policy was a “cap-and-trade” system.
EU states enacted a cap on how much carbon companies could produce during a given period of time. The excess could be exchanged on the European market as an allowance.
Companies could sell any surplus amount they stored, while those that had exceeded the limit could buy more.
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