21 Dec, 2018 @ 16:58
3 mins read

EXCLUSIVE: British expat investors fear huge losses after Spain-based forestry investment firm accused of ‘mishandling’ tens of millions of euros

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A MALLORCA-based investment firm is feared to have lost or ‘mishandled’ tens of millions of euros invested in forestry abroad, the Olive Press can reveal.

GWD Forestry, based in Palma, has been accused of the mismanagement of investors’ cash – with many claiming they have never seen a return.

The company, which invests in agro-plantations, is understood to have performed a recent audit, and told the Olive Press it is working to ‘pay back’ its clients.

One Irish investor, based in Malaga, told the Olive Press he fears he has lost €8,000 invested in eucalyptus trees in Brazil in 2011, before reinvesting another €10,000 in 2013.

“I have received one report in all these years, despite repeatedly asking how my stock was doing,” the investor, who asked to remain anonymous, claimed.

“I have received nothing back and have had no response from the company in months, I fear I have lost €18,000.”

Eucalyptus crop allegedly owned by GWD in Brazil

To add insult to injury, various investors fear they are now being targeted by con artists posing as investment fund managers looking to take over GWD’s operations.

An Australian expat, based in Madrid, told the Olive Press she is being ‘hounded every day’ by them, and believes her initial investment is linked in some way.

The businesswoman invested €8,800 into GWD’s ‘Biomass arm’ in Brazil last August.

“It’s obviously dodgy,” she told the Olive Press, “they are offering me three times what I invested.

“But they want me to pay €5,000 ‘in insurance’ BEFORE they give me the money they are promising.”

She continued: “What gets me is how they know what I invested and when. Was there a data breach?”

It comes after a group of disgruntled investors contacted the Olive Press having created a forum online.

“I invested in acacia and coconuts and so far none of the payments due have been performed despite multiple promises,” one wrote on the GWD Forestry Investor Community.

“The transparency regarding investment performance and payments has been appalling.”

Another said: “The after sales care has been terrible. Dozens of other investors have said the same thing.

“Some have been waiting since 2015 for returns. I’ll be happy to get some of my money back.”

Up to 40 victims alone are being handled by Carlton Huxley, a UK based firm of legal and law enforcement consultants. The group have collectively invested over €3.5m.

The firm, which specialises in resolving conflicts and probing fraud, is currently negotiating with bosses at GWD, including director Martin Roche, who is based in Ireland, but also has investments in Marbella, sources told the Olive Press.

“We have held a series of meetings with the management, who are being cooperative,” a spokesman for the firm, Bill Ferguson, told the Olive Press this week.
“We are working to get a recovery programme under way in the new year.”

He confirmed that investors were receiving cold calls, offering ‘substantial’ sums for the trees, while also claiming GWD is under criminal investigation by the City of London police and is ‘in liquidation’ in the UK.

“Neither are true, there is no UK company to liquidate,” said Ferguson, adding that most of the calls were coming from a company called Belmont Insolvency.

“Belmont say the investment is for a company called Serex Investments Ltd, which is FCA registered…then say the clients should consider taking out insurance on the transaction for £5,000 to £8,000.

“We have contacted Belmont to ask them how they got our clients details and to provide evidence to support their claims GWD is in liquidation and that there is an ongoing criminal investigation by London Police.

“They say they are unable to divulge this information ‘as it is sensitive’ which it is not.”

Belmont Insolvency was not contactable for comment, while a website for the firm was down this week.

PALMA: GWD’s offices are located near the El Corte Ingles department store

Meanwhile, one former employee who worked for GWD for two years in Mallorca told the Olive Press that it was ‘obvious’ that something was ‘not right’.

“Everyone working there knew something was up but they were all too happy to ride the gravy train to worry,” he said.

Another employee, who left last year, said it was ‘without a doubt’ being run questionably.

“By the end, at least, it was more like a boiler room,” he revealed, “They were selling stock they didn’t have and overselling the stock they did have.”

TARGETS: Investors say they are being cold called every single day and being pressured into selling their stocks

He added: “There is definitely no sign of life there today. It’s gone. Completely gone. I have no idea where they are now.”

He also claimed that an investigation was under way in Canada by the Financial and Consumer Services Commission.

That commission told the Olive Press last night: “Regrettably our policy is not to comment on the existence or non existence of an investigation.”

Former employees anonymously told the Olive Press the company knew it was overselling stock

Current director Roche told the Olive Press last night that claims GWD was run like a boiler room were ‘completely untrue’.

“It was never run like that. The main reason behind the failures of GWD were due to the Brazilian economy and the devaluation of the Real.

“We are working around the clock to have a package in place and we plan to pay back every single investor.”

He added that he hoped investors would have more concrete answers within the next two months.

Laurence Dollimore

Laurence has a BA and MA in International Relations and a Gold Standard diploma in Multi-Media journalism from News Associates in London. He has almost a decade of experience and previously worked as a senior reporter for the Mail Online in London.

GOT A STORY? Contact [email protected] or call +34 951 273 575 Twitter: @olivepress

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