Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Investors call for inquiry into failed offshore funds

EWAN LAMB reports

Investors and shareholders caught up in the multi-million pound collapse of the Manx-based Premier Group and its associated funds are calling on the authorities on both sides of the Atlantic to mount a full scale investigation into the activities of the organisation's directors.

A number of inquiries by administrators and liquidators are already underway, including a probe into the affairs of the bankrupt New Earth Recycling & Renewables [Infrastructure] Fund or NERR which was hand picked by Scottish Borders Council to finance a £21 million waste treatment plant at Galashiels.

The NERR fund, managed, controlled and promoted by Premier Group, suffered a spectacular liquidation last year, leaving 3,250 investors in limbo. Insolvency experts have already warned there is unlikely to be any dividend for shareholders as they pick over the mess left by the 'death' of the Premier empire.

Not Just Sheep & Rugby investigations have uncovered several disturbing aspects of the fiasco which resulted in the cancellation of the Borders project and left local taxpayers at least £2.4 million out of pocket. Our efforts to get at the truth continue, but there is still no sign of any kind of official inquiry into the role played by elected councillors and local government officers with the financial losses written off in cavalier fashion.

Now SBC is having to embark on an alternative waste management solution involving the construction of a £6 million waste transfer station on the site of the planned New Earth Solutions (NES) scheme at Easter Langlee. Up to 50,000 tonnes of domestic rubbish will have to be hauled out of the region by road each year to be processed at sites in other parts of Scotland or beyond.

Today, for the first time, the Premier Group's demise and its ramifications have received extensive coverage in the Isle of Man media.

According to Isle of Man Today, a website which carries articles published in the Isle of Man Examiner, the losses sustained by investors in the various funds runs into tens of millions of dollars.

Beneath a headline which reads: SAVERS LOSE MILLIONS AS INVESTMENT FUNDS CRASH IOM Today details the various disasters which have hit Premier Group and its associated entities.

The article states: " Premier Group (Isle of Man) Ltd, based at Ridgeway Street, Douglas, was established in 2007 and latterly focused on renewable and green investments including recycling plants in the UK.

"But as far back as 2010 investors had been raising concerns about the fund group it succeeded, also named Premier Group IoM, which was launched in 2001 and had seen funds that it promoted grow to £500 m but closed to new investments in 2005.

"The Premier Shareholders Group accused the Manx government of failing to protect investors after a fund marketed as ‘low risk’ was subjected to a market value adjuster. That 2001 company was not regulated by the island’s Financial Services Authority (FSA)."

This early history of the Group is of particular relevance to SBC's involvement with the New Earth regime, a liaison which was not forged until 2011. So were Borders councillors made aware of these concerns before signing the paperwork on a £80 million contract which was subsequently ripped up and binned?

The IOM Today article continues: "NERR and its two feeder funds, had a valuation of $292.22 m and a total of 3,249 investors, the majority of whom are unlikely to get much of their money back.

"The higher risk nature of the funds was explained in the funds’ offering documents. ‘Substantial recovery of value from those investments may be unlikely,’ says the FSA. The FSA filed a claim to wind up the three funds after two other linked companies, New Earth Solutions Group and New Earth Solutions Facilities Management, in which NERR was the majority shareholder, were put into administration in the UK." 

An investor in one of the Premier funds declared: " the proper authorities need to investigate this fiasco both in the UK and the USA. Sadly this mess will be quite difficult to clear up given the overly complex structure of these businesses and funds. People investing in what they thought would be profitable, eco-friendly and socially responsible ventures are being swindled".

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