News, Culture & Society

TONY HETHERINGTON: ‘Anti-bullying charity’ badgers me regularly’

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

Oversold: One of the cheap booklets that list only self-evident tips on safety

Ms D.P. writes: I received a phone call, asking me to donate to the Children’s Information Centre, to pay for anti-bullying booklets. 

At the time, my son was being bullied and I agreed to donate, with booklets sent to my chosen school. A few months later, I was called again, telling me I had not yet paid. This was during a Covid lockdown and I was not in a good place, so I paid again. 

Recently, I was called and told my third payment was now due. I insisted I had only agreed to pay once, but I was told the printing had already been done, and stupidly I paid. Now I have found that the school has not received any booklets at all. 

Tony Hetherington replies: This is a scam based on false impressions and false claims. It behaves like a charity, but in fact it is a commercial enterprise designed to make profits. 

Its proper name is Kids Information Centre Ltd and, although it uses an address in London, its base is Ashton-under-Lyne in Greater Manchester. 

I sounded the alarm over this ripoff in August last year, and it dropped out of sight. It seems to have emerged again a couple of months ago. 

It claims: ‘With thousands of free classroom activity ideas, downloadable resources, and display photos, our library is a brilliant resource for lesson planning inspiration.’ 

And, impressively, it advertises that it has partnered with World Book Day and the Royal Geographical Society. 

Less impressively, these are false claims, misusing the names and reputations of genuine organisations. A spokesman for World Book Day told me: ‘World Book Day has absolutely no connection with Kids Information Centre Ltd.’ 

The Royal Geographical Society has no connection either, let alone a partnership deal.

In fact, the only activity I have seen from Kids Information Centre Ltd is the production of cheap booklets giving basic advice about bullying, fire safety, road safety, and keeping out of trouble online. 

I say cheap, but you were invoiced for £169. I understand this was so 100 copies of the booklet could be sent to the school you nominated. 

The calls you received afterwards, claiming you had not paid, and that you had placed a repeat order, are standard practice for tricksters. 

Company records show that the man behind Kids Information Centre is 26-year-old Paul Chalmers. I asked him for a copy of whatever contract he believed entitled him to three payments from you. 

I also requested details of the schools that should have benefited. And I invited him to explain why he was using the names and logos of genuine organisations such as World Book Day. Chalmers offered no answers, no explanations and no comments. 

Report this to the police. Show them this report and tell them I will happily co-operate in any investigation. 

Bullying people into paying for booklets about bullying, and then failing even to come up with the goods is unacceptable.        

WE’RE WATCHING YOU: Fraudster I warned about in 2013 gets 13 years in jail

The ringleader behind a £30million investment fraud has been jailed for 13 years following a 16-week trial. 

Paul Seakens, 60, from Enfield in North London, was at the centre of a network of scam companies that sold carbon credits as investments. 

Police say 73 fraudulent brokers used Seakens to launder money from victims. They sold carbon credit certificates that were said to be in demand by industries to allow them to release carbon into the atmosphere. 

But the certificates were not those used by industries and there was no market to allow investors to turn their pieces of paper back into cash. 

Locked up: Paul Seakens led a £30million investment scam

Locked up: Paul Seakens led a £30million investment scam

The crooks bought the certificates for pennies and sold them with mark-ups of as much as 1,000 per cent, making it impossible for their victims to profit, even if there had been a two-way market. 

As well as controlling Carbon Neutral Investments Ltd – the company at the heart of the scam – Seakens and Luke Ryan, 33, from Eastleigh in Hampshire joined forces to operate Enviro Associates Ltd. 

This sales operation, based in Winchester, raked in about £2million. Ryan, who was already banned from working in any authorised investment firm after earlier scams, was sentenced to six years. 

At Southwark Crown Court in Central London, Her Honour Judge Cahill QC told Seakens, a former stockbroker: ‘Not a single word that comes from you can be trusted.’ 

And she asked Ryan: ‘How did your conscience ever let you take thousands of pounds from innocent and trusting members of the public?’ 

The convictions and sentences follow an investigation lasting eight years, carried out by the City of London Police and officers in Hampshire. 

Judge Cahill commended the police, including Detective Constable Kip Malek, who was at the court throughout the trial, which began in January. 

The judge also commended me for carrying out The Mail on Sunday investigation published in March 2013, warning against Seakens and his scam. Evidence uncovered then, including the 2013 article, was given as prosecution evidence at the trial. 

Seakens’ firm, Carbon Neutral Investments, was authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority. Its licence was cancelled in March 2017, four years after The Mail on Sunday’s warning. 

However, Seakens, though he is now in jail, still appears on the FCA’s public register of financial advisers with a note saying simply that he no longer works in a job that needs FCA approval, and that he has faced no disciplinary action.

If you believe you are the victim of financial wrongdoing, write to Tony Hetherington at Financial Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TS or email tony.hetherington@mailonsunday.co.uk. Because of the high volume of enquiries, personal replies cannot be given. Please send only copies of original documents, which we regret cannot be returned. 

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