Well wouldn't you know! One of the Silva Tree (renamed "Sustainable Capital Group") hustlers, Dutchman Maurice Sjerps, has been arrested in Costa Rica for swindling a bunch of people out of their money with a teak scam. Reports Costa Rican newspaper La Nacion:
La detención de los sospechosos, de apellidos Vranken y Sjerps se produjo en sus casas de habitación en Ciudad Colón y Rohrmoser. También se allanó las casas de habitación de dos notarios en Heredia y Santa Ana, así como una propiedad en San Carlos.
Según la Fiscalía, los extranjeros presuntamente engañaban a ingleses, a quienes invitaban a invertir en la producción de madera teca que tenían sembrada y rotulada en la finca.
Sin embargo esta tiene pocos árboles con edades cortas, características muy diferentes a las ofrecidas por Internet.
(In English, in AMCosta Rica, here). In other words, they promised teak plantations and then these plantations never materialized, didn't exist. The site they used, "Global Green Services", is still up. On it, Sjerps and his accomplices promised: "Invest in your future and earn outstanding, safe returns: 100% tax free, 100% capital guaranteed, projected 12% pa return".
In teak plantations, as in any other agricultural scheme, one can not guarantee returns.
The fraud is very similar to what Sjerps and his fellow Dutchman, Patrick Visser, are doing with Silva Tree/Sustainable Capital Group. On their websites and in brochures and prospectuses, they promised guaranteed high returns on Paulownia plantations in Panama, while falsely claiming that their scheme had been carbon certified. Visser has a background in the wonderful world of Spain's Costa del Sol boiler rooms and real estate, while Sjerps appears to be know in circles of, shall we say, the less reputable teak entrepreneurs. They were all mentioned in a European Union report on land grabbing vultures in the developing world.
Sjerps is one of the complainants - together with Patrick Visser and Keren Visser-Katz - in a criminal libel case filed against this journalist and the Christian Science Monitor in Panama. The court has not yet ruled in that case, but it will be very hard to maintain that allegations of fraud are not true now that Sjerps has been detained on exactly such charges.
Whatever happens, we don't expect to see Sjerps in Panama any time soon, and his days of hanging out with the Dutch ambassador at expat tennis tournaments - over a year after he had been exposed as a fraud artist - appear to be over as well.