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TONY HETHERINGTON: CityA.M. didn’t weed out cannabis investment

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Tony Hetherington is Financial Mail on Sunday’s ace investigator, fighting readers corners, revealing the reality that lies behind closed doors and winning victories for individuals who have been left out-of-pocket. Discover methods to contact him below. 

K.M. writes: I received a promotional email from the respected London financial newspaper CityA.M., for a classy investment from Orange River Wealth. 

The advert makes some extraordinary claims: 15 per cent in annual dividends and 300 per cent capital returns. 

I telephoned CityA.M. with my concerns, and was told by its sales department that ‘just about all adverts are stuffed with lies’. 

Claims: London financial newspaper CityA.M. sent out emails with details of the offer, above 

Tony Hetherington replies: It’s not possible for any newspaper to perform detailed vetting of each commercial. There can be no way local papers could test drive every second-hand automobile that was up on the market, or conduct a structural survey of each house that was advertised. 

That said, I do know from experience that The Mail on Sunday’s promoting staff do attempt to avoid dubious financial advertisements, because they’ve asked me to look into them, and every so often we now have simply refused to publish them. 

And since City A.M. is a specialist financial publication, I believe it is cheap to expect staff there at the very least to solid an eye fixed over anything they email to 1000’s of subscribers, even in the event that they do nothing greater than spot the hugely obvious red flags that flutter over Orange River Wealth’s offering. 

The primary red flag is that although the commercial is headed ‘Orange River Wealth’, the offering is definitely for preference shares in a separate but connected company called Orange River Capital, which is raising money to take a stake in a medicinal cannabis business in South Africa. 

After this, the red flags come thick and fast. The offer document is dated March, but CityA.M. advertised it just a couple of weeks ago. It lists Alexander David Securities as its Financial Conduct Authority-regulated broker. Yet on April 29, the regulator imposed serious restrictions on this firm, and on July 1 – a month and a half before the CityA.M. promotion – Alexander David Securities went into liquidation.

Investors are entitled to know who they’re coping with, and the Orange River offer lists Sarah Stubbs as a director, and offers details of her business experience. Yet Sarah Stubbs quit as a director on June 14. 

The corporate’s chief executive is Lee Farbrace, who says he’s currently a director of 5 corporations he lists. Incorrect. He has forgotten one. That is EMI Wealth Limited, where he’s the only director. The corporate was involved in a long-running legal tussle during which an investor gave evidence that he met Farbrace in 2010 and parted with £130,000.

The corporate claimed to have made ‘significant profits’ from a scheme it was marketing together with a separate but connected company called Emerging Markets Investment Limited. The scheme was said to supply ‘unparalleled low risk returns’, but only a 12 months later, the investor was told the scheme had run into trouble. He lost £100,000. Perhaps this is the reason Farbrace would sooner ignore it. 

The questions hanging over the 2 Orange River corporations go on and on. The advert claims a full dividend was paid by Orange River Capital in January, but as this company is definitely owned by Orange River Wealth, was this only a bookkeeping exercise? 

It will be nice to know the reply, but each corporations have didn’t file accounts that were legally due early in August. Actually, the offer document says that Orange River Capital has not traded yet, so how did it manage to pay last January’s dividend, which the City A.M. commercial boasts is evidence of a ‘proven track record’? 

The corporate cannot even get its own address right. The statutory information within the offer document says its registered office is at ‘

Tower Bridge House, 8-10 Hill Street, St Katharine’s Way, Mayfair, London E1W 1DD.’ That is absolute nonsense. Tower Bridge House isn’t in Hill Street. St Katharine’s Way isn’t in Mayfair. And Mayfair isn’t in London E1. 

The offering is alleged to be geared toward wealthy individuals or sophisticated investors who know what they’re doing. But what the commercial actually says is that it’s for ‘self-sophisticated investors’. What does this even mean? 

I put the entire above to CityA.M. Its sales director Jeremy Slattery denied that CityA.M. ‘promoted’ the share offer. He told me: ‘It published a paid-for commercial, because it publishes many, many others on a every day basis. CityA.M. doesn’t perform due diligence on any of its advertisers. I doubt any newspaper does.’ 

And I put the identical points to Orange River boss Lee Farbrace. He replied immediately, telling me: ‘I shall after all respond in full tomorrow.’ That was almost a fortnight ago, on September 6. As Cliff Richard once sang, tomorrow sometimes never comes.

I’m owed £10,000 in VAT… but cannot log in to HMRC! 

Ms C.T. writes: I registered for VAT and on July 28, HM Revenue & Customs gave me a VAT number, telling me I’d have online access to the VAT account inside three working days. 

Nonetheless, I still don’t have any online access, and so they say that is resulting from ‘technical issues’ inside Revenue & Customs. 

Frustration: HM Revenue & Customs provided a VAT number, saying online access to the account would be available within three working days

Frustration: HM Revenue & Customs provided a VAT number, saying online access to the account can be available inside three working days

Tony Hetherington replies: Without access to Revenue & Customs’s online service, you may not even print off your VAT registration certificate. 

Worse still, being shut out of the system implies that your recent business cannot file VAT returns – and also you reckon that you just will likely be entitled to a refund of around £10,000, which you’ve no way of claiming. 

I asked officials to look into this. They quickly told me: ‘We apologise for the problem experienced by the client accessing their VAT online account. HMRC is aware of a problem which has affected a low number of companies, and following investigations a fix is resulting from be implemented very shortly.’ 

You will have now told me that the net system is working, so you possibly can claim your refund with none problem.

Should you consider you’re the victim of monetary wrongdoing, write to Tony Hetherington at Financial Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TS or email tony.hetherington@mailonsunday.co.uk. Due to high volume of enquiries, personal replies can’t be given. Please send only copies of original documents, which we regret can’t be returned. 

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