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TONY HETHERINGTON looks again at Living Investments UK

Tony Hetherington is Financial Mail’s chief investigator on Sunday, battling the reader’s corners, revealing the truth behind closed doors and achieving victories for those who haven’t made money. Read below how to contact him.

MP writes: I am sending you a statement of the payments my late father made to Living Investments UK for the purchase of teak and bamboo growing interests in Costa Rica.

He received certificates for the first two investments, but despite repeated pursuits, he never received paperwork for his third teak investment or the bamboo plan.

Tough: The whole project could count as a collective investment scheme, and that would put it under the rules of the FCA

Tough: The whole project could count as a collective investment scheme, and that would put it under the rules of the FCA

Tony Hetherington replies: You will have seen me describe Nicholas (“Nico”) Durrant – the man behind Living Investments UK – two weeks ago as a smooth eel with a generous coat of Vaseline. Well, nothing is changed.

You noted that your father should have received income from the teak tree scheme in 2014, but there was none. Durrant told you that the income must have been reinvested by your father later, but there was no evidence of that and Durrant has not explained. Worse, he has sent you and other investors big bills.

The claim you received for £2,489 even included work related to the two investments for which your father never received any title deeds, and it also included alleged eight-year arrears.

Like every investor who has contacted me, you had trouble getting in touch with Durrant at the London address he uses. This is because it is just a maildrop.

Durrant’s real address is a beautiful £2million house he rents in Oxford. And Living Investments UK doesn’t really exist. It is just a trade name that Durrant uses, although he fails to act legally and disclose it on his invoices and similar documents.

I asked Durrant to comment on what you told me. He said: ‘Thank you for shedding light on this matter, and it will be investigated in [sic] straight away. The plantation and investment is real. They are all professionally managed and maintained.’

And Durrant told me, ‘I was just a Living Investment UK sales associate. It was poorly designed and executed. I didn’t like the way they worked and have worked since the closure to take care of all existing clients to maximize their investments and their returns, and by bringing in specialists on a consulting basis.”

But how could he have been in the service of something that did not exist? And how can it close? And if it’s closed, why is Durrant still claiming thousands of pounds in the name of that same Living Investments UK?

Still writhing, Durrant told me that his demands had in fact been issued by an accounting firm in Essex, Money Books Limited. He explains: “Money Books independently takes care of all the maintenance of the plantations and Mr. P has never paid his annual bill.”

You told me this isn’t true at all. Your father paid every management bill he received, except he withheld £75 in 2020 and said he would only pay this if he received the missing deeds from two of his investments.

And Anthony Robertson, who runs the accounting firm Essex, told me, “Money Books only handles the billing of annual maintenance costs to investors, and has nothing to do with the actual maintenance of the estates.”

The amounts requested reflect the information he was given, he explained. And a few days ago, Durrant told you that the missing records were sent to your father in March of last year, but by regular mail with no record of sending or receipt.

Durrant believes that his scheme does not fall under the jurisdiction of the Financial Conduct Authority.

However, the invoices he issued include a wide range of so-called maintenance costs, his travels to and from Costa Rica, and even compensation to “leaders” on the ground whose presence hides the identity of whoever actually controls the plantations.

This could mean that the entire project counts as a Collective Investment Scheme – a type of mutual fund that invests in trees rather than stocks and shares. And that would put it under the rules of the FCA, which has already received the evidence collected by The Mail on Sunday.

I ordered dog food… and Amazon sent a necklace!

Mrs VS writes: I ordered dog food supplements from Amazon and later that day I received an email from Amazon about an order for a cubic zirconia necklace that cost £159. I didn’t order this so I called my bank and it canceled my card but said the payment could not be stopped.

A few days later, Amazon said there would be a £192 charge for a stereo, which I had not ordered. This was on the canceled card so Amazon didn’t collect anything.

I reported all of this to Amazon but was told it found no unauthorized activity

Basket box: Amazon emailed about a zirconia necklace costing £159, in lieu of ordered dog food supplements

Basket box: Amazon emailed about a zirconia necklace costing £159, in lieu of ordered dog food supplements

Basket box: Amazon emailed about a zirconia necklace costing £159, in lieu of ordered dog food supplements

Tony Hetherington replies: Fortunately Lloyds Bank, which issued your card, said it would take back the £159.

But it was followed by a warning that if Amazon objected, insisting that you actually ordered the chain, the bank would have to pay the retail giant all over again. Fortunately, I can reassure you that Amazon has no objection. A spokesperson has acknowledged that someone has used your card without your permission, possibly by accessing your computer.

If you receive suspicious emails pretending to be from Amazon, please report them by emailing stop-spoofing@amazon.com.

If you believe you have been the victim of financial misconduct, please write to Tony Hetherington at Financial Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TS or email tony.hetherington@mailonsunday.co.uk. Due to the large number of questions, no personal answers can be given. Only send copies of original documents, which unfortunately cannot be returned.

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