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Because of the Paris Climate Agreement, municipalities must halve their CO2 emissions over the next ten years. To achieve this, sustainable investments are needed. Sometimes this goes wrong, like this spring in Rotterdam. This is the first of a two-part series.

The green start-up fund Guide Plus Sustainable Investment Fund has run into problems now that two shareholders are either unable or unwilling to provide capital. The first shareholder who did not pay the promised amount to be able to claim the shares in the start-up fund is R… He was supposed to deposit €20 million, divided between two companies, one of which is a London-listed fund, ComCap International Limited. In this fund R. was supposed to deposit €10 million. In his other company R. was also supposed to deposit €10 million. The money was to come from the world’s largest hedge fund, Bridgewater.

This is all indicated in a letter that the City of Rotterdam sent to the City Council at the end of May. The reason was that the municipality had planned to invest €2 million in the green start-ups of Guide Plus. The municipality is the second shareholder to withdraw because otherwise it would have become a major shareholder. The remaining shareholders are the founder of the start-up fund, Edgard Creemers ( €500,000), a company of his family Guide to Perspective (€750,000) and a private investor with his company Smart 66 (€250,000). Together they account for four percent of the original sum of money totaling €23.5 million to be invested.

Green start-ups missing out

A year ago Creemers told the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad that he was in talks with several promising innovative start-ups in Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Delft and Eindhoven. At the time, he thought there was a good chance of investing in them. Because the largest investor, R., did not come up with the €20 million he had promised, according to Creemers, no investments in start-ups have yet gotten off the ground.

An investment that Guide Plus was planning to make last year together with Innovation Quarter did not go ahead. A spokesman for Innovation Quarter, which invests in regional innovative start-ups on behalf of the province of South Holland, indicated that this was because the precondition for their investment was that several investors would put money into this start-up. With the collapse of Guide Plus that would no longer be the case, causing Innovation Quarter to abandon their investment plans.

Reporting to the police

According to the municipality of Rotterdam, fund founder Creemers has reported forgery. Alderman Arno Bonte, responsible for this matter, stated this in a council meeting. The largest financier, R., is said to have forged letterheads from the Bridgewater hedge fund and issued a false confirmation letter to Creemers. He would have found out when R. failed to make a down payment of €100,000 that he was obliged to make. Creemers then went to Bridgewater’s head office to check whether the letter was genuine. It turned out it wasn’t.

Anyone who googles ComCap International soon finds out that R. has several companies in his name both in England and the Netherlands. It can also be seen that he has established the Dutch company at his home address in the Gooi region and that there is a Mercedes C-class in the yard of his rented house there. An article in the Dutch newspaper AD from 2008 states that R. is associated with diploma fraud, to which R. responds that he was the victim of identity fraud.

Municipality of Rotterdam lost €50,000

According to Creemers, however, the Public Prosecution Service rejected the case and stated that it was a civil matter. Meanwhile, R. is involved in the settlement of two bankruptcies that the court ruled on last year. The first is the bankruptcy of his person. That was requested by the fund founder of Guide Plus, who wants to recover the costs he has incurred for the participation of R.’s two private limited companies in the fund, which he indicates is about €60,000. The Municipality of Rotterdam is also submitting a claim to the trustee, according to a spokesperson. First of all, the municipality transferred €30,000 to Guide Plus to cover part of the costs of setting up the fund. The municipality wants this back. Secondly, there are the costs (about €20,000) of Rotterdam civil servants who have been involved in the participation in this fund. For the time being, it is not clear whether these costs will be recovered. An employee of the trustee in bankruptcy, Mr. Van Nielen, states that the settlement of the personal bankruptcy is not public and that he cannot share information about it.

R.’s Dutch company went bankrupt a few months after his personal bankruptcy in 2019. The last public report by receiver Van Nielen on R.’s company so far only mentions one creditor: ABN Amro Bank. This claims more than €35,000 from the bankrupt company. In 2014 R. was also involved in a bankruptcy. According to one of the trustees who dealt with this, the proceedings dragged on for a long time and the matter was not settled until 2018.

No civil proceedings

The law firm representing R. states that it does not wish to respond to the accusations of founder Creemers of the Guide Plus Sustainable Investment Fund. According to R. there was no promise by R. to invest €20 million in this fund. The spokesman claims that R. only acted as a contact for two large potential investors in his network. There is no civil procedure in this case, according to R.

Tomorrow, in part 2: How Rotterdam got involved in investing in a green innovation fund.