Britons Get Between 6 and 13 Years for Biofuel Fraud

A London court on Monday sentenced three British men to between six and 13 years in prison each for their involvement in a Ponzi scheme in which they defrauded investors in a Cambodian biofuel venture out of $36 million.

The Southwark Crown Court sentenced Gary West, the former director of Sustainable Agro Energy (SAE), to 13 years in prison; James Whale, director of SAE’s parent company, Sustainable Growth Group, to nine years; and Stuart Stone, who ran a firm that sold pension products, to six years.

The trio was convicted on Friday following an investigation into SAE by the U.K.’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO).

According to a statement posted to the SFO’s website on Monday, investors in SAE “were deliberately misled into believing that SAE owned land in Cambodia; that the land was planted with Jatropha trees, and that there was an insurance policy in place to protect investors if the crops failed.”

In the statement, Judge Martin Beddoe calls the fraud a “thickening quagmire of dishonesty.”

“[T]here were more than 250 victims of relatively modest means some of whom had lost all of their life savings and their homes,” Judge Beddoe said.

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