Interesting stories in the SMH recently about an Australian company that has been swept up in a $100 million carbon trading scandal in Papua New Guinea after claims fake carbon certificates were given to landowners to help persuade them to sign over the rights to their forests. The scandal threatens to undermine efforts by the Climate Change Minister, Penny Wong, to win support at the United Nations climate talks in Copenhagen for a global carbon trading scheme to include forests in the likes of PNG and Indonesia. An investigation has begun and the head of PNG’s Office of Climate Change, Theo Yasause, has been removed.
The company involved – Carbon Planet – recently announced it intended to list on the Australian stock exchange through what is known as a “back door” method. In other words, it would take over an existing stock market listed company called m2m. It would involve raising about $10 million from the market and the combined entity was said to be worth $117 million. Most of this value was in the “carbon credits” the company had secured around the world, including in PNG. In a presentation to m2m shareholders, Carbon Planet said it expected to generate $1 billion annually and would be the first Australian-listed entity providing full services in carbon trading activities.
What possible connection could this have with Firepower?
Of course I am not suggesting any wrong-doing or that the connections are anything other than coincidence but you have to look closely at one of the key figures in Carbon Planet. It is none other than its CEO and board member Jim Johnson. As I say it is a coincidence, but Johnson’s name appears as a major investor in Firepower. By his own admission to me, he sunk about $2.5 million into Firepower. Other investors on the Firepower share registry also invested in Rocksoft, a successful Adelaide-based listed company of which Johnson was also once CEO. The connections are complicated but most of them can be traced through Michael van Rens, a former Channel 7 journalist from Perth who raised early capital for Rocksoft and for Firepower. Readers of my book will recognise van Rens as a key figure in the Firepower saga.
I am not sure if the companies are even related other than by name but there is a second company registered in Australia called Carbon Planet (Australia) Pty Ltd that has separate ties to Firepower. This company appears to be linked to Ross Graham, the mining millionaire who lost $26 million in Firepower. One of the figures in Carbon Planet (Australia) appears to be none other than Peter O’Meara, the former CEO of The Western Force rugby union team – the Super 14 franchise sponsored and nearly ruined by Firepower. O’Meara and Tim Johnston, the former Firepower chairman, were once good friends. Oh, and the person whose name appears on the press releases? None other than Michael Zahn, the former Firepower and Sydney Kings public relations executive.
Like I said, I certainly am not suggesting anything. Merely pointing out that it is a small world.