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UK prosecutors charge co-founder of ethical teak investment firm

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LONDON (Reuters) – The co-founder of a company that promoted ethical investments in Brazil’s Amazonian teak plantations has been arrested at London’s Heathrow airport and charged with fraud, forgery and other offences by the UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO).

Andrew Skeene, a former director of Global Forestry Investments, has been charged with three counts of conspiracy to defraud, four offences of forgery, misconduct and making a false statement between 2010 and 2015, the SFO said on Tuesday.

Skeene’s lawyer declined to comment.

Skeene, 41, was arrested in June, five years after the SFO opened a criminal investigation into a business that attracted more than 20 million pounds from investors.

According to LinkedIn, Skeene co-founded Global Forestry Investments around 2008, opening offices in Sao Paolo, London, Dubai and Abu Dhabi, to provide “risk mitigated, sustainable investment in tropical hardwood”.

Its main product was called the Belem Sky Plantation, in which investors were offered plots of teak trees in Brazil’s northern state of Pará in deals promoted as also helping preserve the livelihood of local people and forestry lands, according to the social media website.

The SFO is also investigating allegations of fraud at Global Forex Investments, another company linked to the case. Two addresses in south eastern England were raided by police in 2015, the investigator and prosecutor has said.

(Reporting by Kirstin Ridley; Editing by Keith Weir)

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