Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Investors: Beware jumping on the carbon-credit bandwagon

A Great Piece of Reporting by David Baines for the Vancouver Sun:

...The smile soon gave way to circumspection as I starting asking Nelson Skalbania about his involvement in what may be the most controversial OTC Bulletin Board company in North America, perhaps the world.

...In August 2005, George agreed to sell his company, Planktos Inc., to a Vancouver-based bulletin board company called Solar Energy Ltd. for $1.5 million.

Solar has since agreed to sell the business to another bulletin board company called Diatom Corp. for 45 million shares. That will give Solar a controlling interest in Diatom, which is now trading as Planktos Corp.

Skalbania is neither an officer nor director of Solar, but his footprints are all over it. Solar's principal executive office is listed as 145-925 West Georgia St., which is Skalbania's office.

Skalbania's business card describes him as "manager" of Solar and a director of Planktos Inc., which operates as a subsidiary of Solar. He also owns big blocks of Solar stock through two private B.C. companies, Baycove Capital Corp. and Regal RV Resorts Inc.

He is also a big booster. When I dropped into his West Georgia office, he tried to persuade me that Planktos has viable solutions to global warming. He appeared genuinely enthusiastic, but I have trouble sharing that enthusiasm.

As a businessman, Skalbania has had a very checkered career. In the early 1980s, his highly levered business empire collapsed, leaving behind dozens of creditors who were owed millions of dollars.

He then turned to the stock market, where he became involved in a series of Vancouver Stock Exchange companies. One was Ponderosa Ventures, which rose to $5 on the basis of a series of acquisitions that eventually went bankrupt.

One of those acquisitions was Columbia Trust. In 1987, RCMP alleged in search warrant information that Skalbania converted for personal use nearly $2 million of a $3-million loan provided by Standard Chartered Bank to Columbia Trust. The RCMP recommended that charges be laid, but to their chagrin, the Crown decided not to proceed.

David Baines, Vancouver Sun

Published: Saturday, June 23, 2007