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Forestry trial: "I told investors face-to-face I lost their money"
A COMPANY boss accused of conning investors out of £1.6million through a “carbon credits” scam flew out to tell clients face to face he lost their money.
Matthew Ames, 38, from Goldfinch Lane, Thundersley, told Isleworth Crown Court he flew to Prague and the Republic of Ireland to tell investors their money was gone after the Financial Services Authority forced him to liquidate the firms in March 2011.
Pointing at his heart, Ames said: “I knew in here it was the right thing to do.”
Arguing these were not the actions of a fraudster, he said he made a vow to them he would do all he could to earn their money back and repay them.
Big day: Matt Ames and football legend Jack Charlton at Forestry for Life launch in 2010
He denies two counts of fraudulent trading in connection with The Investor Club and Forestry for Life he ran from a converted farm barn in Dunton Road, Laindon.
But a subsequent business, the Carbon Neutral Business Directory, he set up to the same address, failed to make any money.
He said: “There was a lot of press coverage and when you have a young family your confidence and self belief goes. I was not able to make it happen.”
Ames admitted he “jumped the gun” in telling an investor he had purchased land in Brazil to protect rainforest to generate carbon credits.
The court heard he told John Ferguson he had bought the land “out of his own funds”.
When later quizzed proof he said he only had an “option” to buy it but this fell through.
Stuart Biggs, prosecuting, asked if he had any paperwork to back up the option, but Ames did not know.
Ames told the jury he took the model for his “off-plan”
forestry investments from his parents luxury Caribbean resort investment scheme the court heard.
Head office: Harlequin HQ in Honywood Road, Basildon
The businessman said he made £750,000 in commission over two years selling investments in Harlequin Property in Honywood Road, Basildon.
The firm is run by his parents, Dave and Carol Ames, both in their sixties, from Brock Hill, Wickford. He remains a 10 per cent shareholder in some of the business.
With his parents in the public gallery, Ames said he was still owed £250,000 by Harlequin Property when he left to set up his own ventures.
He said: “I left Harlequin in May 2008 and had the summer off. I used the money to set up the Investor Club.
Computer image: Harlequin's planned Merricks resort in Barbados
“Everyone knew I was selling off-plan. That was my background.”
Ames also apologised for his “Essexness” during the trial.
Mr Biggs suggested it was clear he was duping an investor, who he convinced to loan him £75,000 in return for 15 per cent interest, when he wrote in an e-mail to a contact at the time “you should hear me with old matey boy” and that he was confident he would part with the money.
Official launch: Dave and Carole Ames opening the Buccament Bay resort in St Vincent in 2010
But Ames insisted it did not mean he was misleading the client, who went on to invest more than £100,000.
Ames told the jury: “I apologise now for my Essexness in e-mails, and grammatical errors, but I type as I speak. I amguilty of being a salesman, but amnot a dishonest one.”
The trial continues, with the jury expected to retire this week.