Karim Khalil QC, leading Annie Johnston, secures acquittal in £7million carbon credit fraud trial
30 May 2019
Karim Khalil QC and Annie Johnston, instructed by Janes Solicitors, secured an acquittal for their client in a trial that has attracted national headlines due to the issues involving the prosecution evidence that halted the trial and the prosecution case. Their client, Christopher Woolcott, was charged with selling fraudulent investment opportunities in companies, diamond investments and graphene (a form of carbon) investments.
Mr Woolcott was one of eight defendants who were charged with various forms of fraud on members of the public. The defendants allegedly persuaded members of the public to make various investments, including in the purchase of carbon credits. The prosecution alleged that from 2011 to 2018 the defendants were engaged in fraud directly or engaged in laundering the proceeds of fraud.
There were disclosure issues from the very beginning of the matter that all the defence advocates rooted out by making serial requests which went unanswered until late in the case. The prosecution case relied on a specific expert witness report, from Andrew Ager. Mr Ager's evidence - supplied in the form of a written statement to the court - made the point to the jury that anyone with any knowledge of the carbon credit market would have been fully aware how little prospect there was of being able to make any profit.
The trial, which heard evidence for three weeks before it was halted, concluded with Judge Nicholas Loraine-Smith ruling that all defendants should be cleared. In closing the case, the judge said: "Andrew Ager is not an expert of suitable calibre. He had little or no understanding of the duties of an expert. He had received no training and attended no courses. He has no academic qualifications. His work has never been peer-reviewed."
As Mr Ager’s expert evidence is thought to have been used in more than 20 fraud prosecutions as an expert witness, the safety of the convictions in every previous carbon credits prosecution in which he has been involved is now said to be in question.
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