UKTI selects fake UK company for overseas market visit

  1. Government department UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) recently selected a fake UK company, British Eco Power Ltd, for one of its overseas market visits. This failure to conduct due diligence calls into question the competence of UKTI.
  2. For the background on British Eco Power Ltd, see my previous post.
  3. UKTI is charged with increasing exports by UK-based businesses. Operating from regional offices, one way it does this is by organising overseas market visits for local businesses.
  4. The UKTI London and South East market visit to South Africa in October 2014 included British Eco Power Ltd. Here is the official brochure for the UKTI trade mission: http://capechamber.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/South-Africa-Brochure.pdf. Carl Woolf, who led the trade mission, confirmed in an email that it’s a genuine UKTI document. Figure 1 is a screen shot of the front cover of the brochure.

    Figure 1. UKTI market visit brochure: front cover at 12 April 2016

    Figure 1. UKTI market visit brochure: front cover at 12 April 2016

  5. British Eco Power Ltd appears on p.8 of the brochure (screen shot in Figure 2). Yet British Eco Power Ltd isn’t registered at Companies House. It’s illegal for a company to claim to be a limited company if the company isn’t registered at Companies House as a limited company.

    Figure 2. UKTI market visit brochure: p.8 at 12 April 2016

    Figure 2. UKTI market visit brochure: p.8 at 12 April 2016

  6. I asked company director Abbey King Khawaja in an email: “How did you get UKTI to select for the trade mission a company not registered at Companies House?” Not receiving a reply, I sent a reminder a week later. This time I did hear from him: “Presently on business travels across the globe,” he wrote. At date of publication this evasive message is the only one I’ve received from Mr Khawaja on the issue.
  7. Mr Woolf at UKTI refused to comment when I brought to his attention that a company in the trade visit he led wasn’t – and still isn’t – registered at Companies House. He referred me to the company on the matter.
  8. I sent a request for comment to the UKTI press office: “How and why was a company not registered at Companies House included within the UKTI trade visit to South Africa?” A spokesman said in an email: “UKTI works with a range of businesses seeking to develop internationally. We note that not all businesses are required to register with Companies House: sole traders for example only need to register with HMRC and are defined as people who work for themselves, but may still employ staff or subcontract. Many such micro businesses are highly successful exporters.”
  9. This response from UKTI is inadequate because the information isn’t relevant. When I went back to the press office, a spokeswoman declined to comment. “As you know, we wouldn’t comment on individual companies so I won’t be able to give you a response on the specific company you name,” she wrote. Again, inadequate. I then asked in an email: “Why is UKTI seemingly avoiding accountability for its selection of this particular company for a UKTI market visit?” The spokeswoman replied: “I will look into it for you and let you know if there’s anything else I can provide.” Despite a reminder, at date of publication I’ve heard nothing more from UKTI.
  10. UKTI states in the brochure that it “carefully selected” the UK companies for its market visit to South Africa in October 2014 (screen shot in Figure 3). Not carefully enough: British Eco Power Ltd is a fake company. This failure to conduct due diligence calls into question the competence of UKTI.

    Figure 3. UKTI market visit brochure: p.1 at 12 April 2016

    Figure 3. UKTI market visit brochure: p.1 at 12 April 2016

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