Monthly Archives :

November 2020

Scam Alert

Oakbrook Capital Scam

Oakbrook Capital Scam 300 233 SOS Team

Oakbrook Capital Scam.

A company calling itself Oakbrook Capital PLC is carrying out a follow-on-fraud against investors who have lost money in the Minerva Development Group Ltd investment.  Oakbrook Capital has the phone numbers of investors and has been calling them to talk about their Exchange Program.

This follow-on-fraud is using the “Capital Exchange Program” model.  This is where fraudsters aim to convince investors that there is a buyer for their investment and that the money is being held in escrow.  As always, all it requires in order for that money to be released is for the investor to pay a fee.

Oakbrook Capital is the fake Guarantor for both the money and for all the investor’s potential liabilities.  This reassures the intended victim that they have nothing to lose, but the truth is that there is no buyer, no escrow money and no guarantee.  It is all a scam.

Their website domain name was purchased on 23rd September 2020, only two months ago, solely for the purpose of making the scam look like a genuine opportunity.

We have copied some of their correspondence below.  If anyone receives anything like this from any company it is guaranteed to be a scam.

THE INTRODUCTORY EMAIL

From: Oakbrook Capital PLC <info@oakbrookcapitalplc.com>

Subject: Oakbrook Capital information attached

Dear

We are writing to you regarding your position in the forthcoming Capital Exchange Programme, facilitated by Oakbrook Capital. We have assigned James Bailey as your alternative asset advisor.

Please ensure that as per the enclosed invoice, your account is settled on or before the [DATE]. Full information and contract terms are provided overleaf for your reference.

Oakbrook Capital acts in the interest of clients burdened by the strain of the aftermath of company insolvency in order to provide investors with a route out of the market. We endeavour to ensure transparency in order to restore faith in the investment markets.

Please find below the link to our website:

Please contact us should you have any further queries on 020-3797-6483.

Yours sincerely,

Mrs Susan I. Abrahams
Director

Oakbrook Capital
8 St. James’s Square, St. James’s, London, SW1Y 4JS
www.oakbrookcapitalplc.com
020-3797-6483
Company Registration – 09752762

An important point to remember is that scammers use software which enables them to mask their phone numbers.  They can make their phone number look like any number anywhere in the world.  The real Mrs Abrahams is not a director of Oakbrook Capital PLC.  She is a director Oakbrook Capital (1) PLC which has a very similar name, but in legal terms is entirely separate.  This would appear to be another example of scammers trawling through Companies House records looking for any company which has ‘capital’, ‘asset’, ‘finance’ or ‘recovery’ in its title so that they can steal its identity (or something very close to its identity).  Scammers usually use the same postal address and the same director name as the genuine company because who bothers to write to the registered office postal address ?

THE FAKE GUARANTEE:

This document hereby certifies that the deposit payable by [NAME] to the value of [AMOUNT] is refundable up to five working days following a successful exchange as underwritten by Oakbrook Capital.

Oakbrook Capital, here-forth referred to as the “Guarantor”, guarantee you irrevocably and without imposition of any terms and conditions, apart from those already provided herein, for all the obligations taken by you as the client.

The payment of the deposited sum of [AMOUNT] covering fees pertaining to the Account exchange for your Minerva property bond, in the exit of your Investment Portfolio as orchestrated by the Guarantor. The overall sum of the Guarantor’s liability under the Warranty Guarantees under the Contracted sale amounts is [AMOUNT].

The guarantor declares that the buyer will pay the client under this Guarantee upon completing the programmed exchange and upon receipt of written authorisation to release the funds to you within 7 working days after the agreed sale date on the [DATE]. The request for payment must be delivered to the Guarantor via your advisor or by mail. Payment of the aforementioned guaranteed amount is payable to you by cheque or BACS transfer.

This Guarantee shall be valid from the day of issuance of this Guarantee till the expiry day of the guarantee period, made only on the understanding and condition that the deposit amount was received in full.

Please refer to our terms and conditions overleaf for further clarification on how our underwritten guarantee and buy back guarantee works. This Guarantee shall be enforceable without the need to have recourse to any judicial or arbitrary proceedings. Any disputes arising here from shall be settled in writing, with all enquiries directed to the compliance department in writing. Any disputes concerning this Guarantee shall be settled according to English Law.

Underwritten and signed for and on behalf of Oakbrook Capital:

The Oakbrook Capital fraudsters send out a page of Terms and Conditions and a fake screenshot of bank deposits which they claim they are already holding for investors.  On that list there will be a line which has the name of the investor they are targeting and a large sum of money against it.  It’s all part of the fraudsters’ armoury.  They’ve put a lot of effort into presenting documents they hope will lure their intended victims to part with their money.

For the avoidance of doubt – anything investors receive which has a similar message or contains any reference to an Exchange Program is a scam.  All approaches should be reported to the relevant law enforcement authorities in your country.

As these fraudsters are pretending to operate in the UK here is the link to the Action Fraud reporting page.

We have published an article on another scam which we believe is linked to the people behind Oakbrook Capital. The same investor targeted in the Oakbrook Capital scam was also targeted by this other scam which can be viewed here.

 

Whittley-Ryan Lied to the Court

Whittley-Ryan Lied to the Court 400 267 SOS Team

Whittley-Ryan Lied to the Court

At the recent hearing for St Helier Capital Management Ltd the petitioner was intending to highlight that Simon Whittley-Ryan lied to the court in the Witness Statement submitted in October.  The petitioner did not get the chance to inform the court as the Judge issued the Winding Up Order the moment it became clear that St Helier had not paid the debt.

On 19th October 2020, the day before the hearing, Simon Whittley-Ryan submitted a Witness Statement to the court.  He has been the only director of St Helier Capital Management Ltd since it was incorporated so there can be no doubt that he is the only person who would have a full and complete knowledge of the company’s affairs.  Yet he made two statements which he will have known to be untrue.

The first untrue statement was “Mr Clifft (44.12%) and Mr Smallwood (7.35%), total (51.47%), the largest preference shareholders are supporting the short adjournment to protect their and other investors interests [Exhibit I]”.

Despite claiming his statement was supported by Exhibit I, he did not file Exhibit I with the court.  That’s not a surprise because the statement was not true.

What Mr Whittley-Ryan did not know when he submitted his Witness Statement is that we know Mr Clifft. 

He is in a group of investors which is taking legal action against another scam investment company we exposed.  That’s really bad luck for Simon Whittley-Ryan.

We contacted Mr Clifft and asked him about Mr Whittley-Ryan’s statement.  It is fair to say Mr Clifft was not very happy about it.  He told us he has never agreed to support Mr Whittley-Ryan and has in fact raised his concerns about St Helier Capital Management Ltd with the authorities in the past.

We know why Simon Whittley-Ryan included Mr Clifft in his Witness Statement.  He wanted to persuade the court that more than 50% of shareholders were supporting the company because it would make the Judge think that the issuance of a winding up order would be going against the wishes of the majority of shareholders.  According to Mr Whittley-Ryan, Mr Clifft had a 44.12% shareholding.  By claiming the company had Mr Clifft as a supporter it would make it much easier to get over the 50% level and he thought Mr Clifft would never find out.

So, according to Mr Whittley-Ryan’s false statement, the support of these two investors amounted to 51.47% of shareholders but, notwithstanding the fact that Mr Clifft wasn’t a supporter, was it actually true that they added up to 51.47% and was therefore a majority of shareholders ?  NO.

The second lie was revealed in a table he provided to the court showing 12 investors and the percentage level of their shareholdings which he claimed was the total number of people who had invested in the company.  The table showed that 3 of the 12 investors had been paid back and their percentage shareholdings were therefore shown as 0%.  This left only 9 shareholders.  One of those 3 investors who had allegedly been paid back was Mr Baker.

What Mr Whittley-Ryan did not know when he submitted his Witness Statement is that we know Mr Baker.

We know Mr Clifft AND Mr Baker.  Oh dear, what rotten luck for Mr Whittley-Ryan.

We contacted Mr Baker and asked why he hadn’t told us that his investment had been repaid.  He told us he has never been repaid.  When we told him that Mr Whittley-Ryan had filed a Witness Statement with the court stating that the company had repaid him he contacted the petitioner’s solicitor to report that Mr Whittley-Ryan had lied to the court.

We know why Mr Whittley-Ryan lied.  There were originally 12 shareholders so if all 12 were still shareholders Mr Whittley-Ryan would not reach the 50% level he needed.  He had to make it look like a few investors had been paid off.  By telling the court that 3 shareholders had been paid back it increased the percentage shareholdings of Mr Clifft and Mr Smallwood.  If any one of those 3 ‘paid off’ shareholders had been left on the genuine list then Mr Whittley-Ryan would not have reached the 50% mark.  There was another reason for Mr Whittley-Ryan lying about this.  The table made it look like the company had honoured its commitments to some investors when the reality is that it had not.

It is one thing to lie to investors and business partners because Mr Whittley-Ryan has made a career out of that, but it is an entirely different matter to lie to a court.

Now that St Helier Capital Management Ltd has been wound up we will be writing to the Official Receiver providing a copy of the Witness Statement.  The Official Receiver will have access to the bank records and can check Mr Whittley-Ryan’s Witness Statement against the bank account transactions.  Hopefully the Official Receiver will report any offence to the Police.

Mr Whittley-Ryan is the sole director of Folium Energy Ltd which is currently seeking to raise funding for an anaerobic digestion venture.  He is also the director of Natural Capital Holdings Ltd.

Our previous article on St Helier Capital Management Ltd can be viewed here.

 

Shepherd Cox Bankruptcy Update

Shepherd Cox Bankruptcy Update 400 267 SOS Team

Shepherd Cox bankruptcy update.

We have received a number of requests for an update on the bankruptcy petitions filed against the directors of the Shepherd Cox companies.  Mr Carlile’s hearing was due to take place earlier this month, but was ‘vacated’ i.e it did not go ahead due to the Judge being unable to attend.  We are told the hearing is being rescheduled for some time in December.  The last update we received on Lee Bramzell’s hearing is that it is still scheduled for 8th December.

What is very concerning is that we have seen correspondence sent by Nick Carlile earlier this month from his Shepherd Cox Ltd email address providing an update on the company’s business. Shepherd Cox Ltd was placed into administration in September 2020 so Mr Carlile is acting unlawfully by pretending to represent the company.  The email lists the hotel properties which Shepherd Cox Ltd allegedly controls.  This would be good news for the administrator of Shepherd Cox Ltd if Mr Carlile’s claims were true, but they are not.

Mr Carlile claims in his email that Covid-19 has had a serious impact on the Shepherd Cox Ltd business which he states includes the following hotels:

ALLERTON COURT HOTEL  /  HALLGARTH MANOR HOTEL  /  THE NEW HOBBIT HOTEL  /  WROXTON HALL  /  THREE WAYS HOTEL  /  THE OLDE BARN HOTEL  /  THE BRIDGE HOTEL  /  THE CRAB AND LOBSTER  /  AND TWO LEASEHOLD HOTELS IN CHESTER AND SUNDERLAND.

Shepherd Cox Ltd does not own any of these hotels and it does not operate them.  Shepherd Cox Ltd was the sales arm of the Shepherd Cox scam, not the operational arm.  See our previous article here.

If Shepherd Cox Ltd did own or operate these hotels the administrator would now control them on behalf of creditors.  Mr Carlile’s claims are untrue.  He states “On a more positive note we have streamlined the business and introduced a new management company to assist us going forward. They have made significant reductions to our cost base and are forecasting a reasonable profit for the business – even in this coming year to March 2020”.   He means 2021.  I suppose that losing control of most of the hotels can technically be classified as ‘streamlining’.

We assume Mr Carlile is referring to the Festival Hotels companies as the new management company.  Mr Bramzell and Luqa Ltd (the Maltese company which controls the first three hotels on the list through its own appointed administrator) have a symbiotic relationship where the fortunes of one is tied to the other hence Luqa’s administrator appointing Mr Bramzell’s companies to run the hotels when it had many proper, genuine and far more capable hotel management companies it could have chosen.

It’s possible that someone else with access to the Shepherd Cox email system sent the email out in the name of Mr Carlile because they didn’t want to put their own name on it.  If it was Mr Carlile it was very unwise to purport to represent Shepherd Cox Ltd when he does not and it smacks of desperation.  The email was clearly intended to mislead the recipients, some of whom are owed money by Mr Carlile.  The last thing Mr Carlile would want at this stage is yet more creditors supporting the bankruptcy petition against him which may be why he has painted a completely false picture of his future prospects and ability to repay his debts.

 

Justice

St Helier Capital Management Ltd is Wound Up by the High Court

St Helier Capital Management Ltd is Wound Up by the High Court 300 200 SOS Team

St Helier Capital Management Ltd is Wound Up by the High Court.

20 months after one of our clients first filed a winding up petition, St Helier Capital Management Ltd has been wound up by the High Court.

The owner of SHCM, Mr Simon Whittley-Ryan, frustrated the court process on many occasions and was able to drag the case out for almost two years.  We have written about his antics in previous articles.  This time however, he finally ran out of excuses.

At the previous hearing in October 2020 Mr Whittley-Ryan finally accepted the petitioner’s claim was valid.  He told the court the company had the money and would pay up.  The hearing was adjourned until 25th November 2020 to allow the payment to be made.  At yesterday’s hearing the petitioner informed the court he had received no payment from Simon Whittley-Ryan or St Helier Capital Management Ltd so the Judge filed a Winding Up Order over the company.

Rather than make payment as he had promised, Mr Whittley-Ryan spent the last month threatening legal action against the petitioner for daring to demand that the debt be repaid.  A host of other parties including investors, ourselves, insolvency firms, former partners, former business associates, contractors and others have all received a similar threat over the years.  It’s a message he’ll probably have on his headstone when he dies.

“HERE LIES SIMON WHITTLEY-RYAN.  YOU’LL BE HEARING FROM HIS SOLICITOR”.

Credit has to go to the UK’s Official Receiver.  Less than 24 hours after the Judge issued the Winding Up Order we received an email from the Official Receiver asking us to send through any information we have on SHCM.  That is a pretty quick response.  It may have something to do with this being the fourth Simon Whittley-Ryan investment company forced into liquidation by investors in the last year.  Four companies which received millions of pounds from investors with nothing at all to show for it.

It has been suggested that Simon Whittley-Ryan may be suffering from the rare condition of “Reverse King Midas Syndrome”.  Everything King Midas touched turned to gold, but for those suffering from Reverse King Midas Syndrome everything they touch turns to s**t.

Which leads us very nicely to Simon Whittley’s latest money-losing venture for investors.  Having established a reputation for running s**t businesses, he has decided his next venture will be officially recognised, in advance, as being very much a s**t business.

He is attempting to move into the waste-to-energy sector, or more specifically, anaerobic digestion plants.  Anaerobic digestion is described as “a process through which bacteria break down organic matter – such as manure – without oxygen”.  It looks like his Covid-19 business has been put on ice for a while [nice vaccine reference there].

Mr Whittley-Ryan is the owner of Folium Energy Ltd and Natural Capital Holdings Ltd.  He was formerly a director of Natural Capital Energy Ltd, but fell out with his partners over the fundraising which ended in a parting of the ways.  We are told Mr Whittley-Ryan’s fundraising proposal raised red flags with his partners.  The proposed investment was a $200m ‘asset-backed’ bond which was allegedly using precious gemstones as security for investors’ capital.  The bond issuer was listed as Petra Asset Management Ltd.  We contacted Petra Asset Management Ltd on two occasions to ask them what due diligence they had undertaken on the assets which were allegedly backing the bond and on Simon Whittley-Ryan himself.  They did not respond.

Simon Whittley-Ryan has absolutely no experience of anaerobic digestion plants.  We have been advised by three independent sources that he is working with Paul Winter Consulting.  We have also been advised that Paul Winter was made aware of Mr Whittley-Ryan’s history of defaulting on investment products, but at that time only three companies had been wound up by investors.  The fourth one might just be enough for them to think there’s a bit of a pattern here. We wrote to Paul Winter Consulting. The thread is copied below:

Dear Sirs [Paul Winter Consulting]

 Your company name has come up three times from three different sources in connection with an anaerobic digestion venture with Simon Whittley-Ryan.

We represent a group of investors who have been defrauded by Mr Whittley-Ryan and we will be publishing an article this week on his anaerobic digestion venture. Your company will be mentioned as being involved in the venture.

We would like to give you an opportunity to explain your relationship with Mr Whittley-Ryan prior to publication and also your involvement, or not, in the proposed fundraising bond. You will be aware Mr Whittley-Ryan has established several bond and preference share investments which all defaulted on payments to investors and subsequently collapsed, leaving investors with significant losses.

We are told that you are also aware that Mr Whittley-Ryan has three companies in liquidation, with a fourth currently subject to winding up proceedings, and is under investigation for his conduct in those companies. 

 

Dear Sirs [SOS]

Thank you for your email.

PWCL is a project management company that provides professional advice to a range of clients, such as developers, landowners or investors on the feasibility of construction projects in the renewable energy sectors. We are not involved in the raising of finance.

Thank you

 

Dear Sirs [Paul Winter Consulting]

OK, we will include that quote in our article.

We will also note that you chose not to comment on your relationship with Simon Whittley-Ryan.  In that respect we will just include the views of other parties who have commented on your relationship.

Regards,

 

Dear Sirs [SOS]

Since it is not our position to comment on dealings with other companies we expect the same of others. We are an independent company and not involved with the intimate dealings of others as you have set out. Therefore if you print anything that is in anyway detrimental to our operations then we will take action. Please make your sources aware that we will report this to the appropriate authorities.

The end result is that Paul Winter Consulting has neither confirmed nor denied its involvement with Simon Whittley-Ryan, but it is hardly a secret as their relationship is common knowledge with the landowners who are being approached.

Folium Energy Ltd (incorporated just three months ago) is described at Companies House as being involved in the “Manufacture of Gas”.  That, along with the fact that the company is involved in anaerobic digestion plants, would appear to be ideally suited to Mr Whittley-Ryan’s particular skillset.  Anaerobic digestion plants require an endless supply of bulls**t which Mr Whittley-Ryan is more than capable of providing.

To view our next article on St Helier Capital Management please click here

 

High Street Group

High Street Group 360 240 SOS Team

The High Street Group

Investors who have lent money to the High Street Group of companies have been receiving letters inviting them to apply for free shares, also described in some communications as “gifted shares”.  Who wouldn’t want free shares given as a gift ?

The High Street Group companies have taken out a lot of short, medium and long-term loans with investors.  They offer very high interest rates well in excess of banking norms.  That’s always a bit worrying.  Earlier this year they stopped paying the loan interest to investors.  They cited Covid-19 as an excuse which, to be fair, has affected everyone.  They followed that by extending the dates for repayment of investors’ capital.  They have now further extended those dates, but have sought to sweeten the pill by offering free shares as a “gift”.  Of course, when you look into it in more detail this is not a gift.

Their idea of ‘free’ and ‘a gift’ is different to everyone else.  Just to be sure we looked up the dictionary definition.  A gift is described as “a thing given willingly to someone without payment”.  But, The High Street Group does want payment.  Their free gift is tied to conditions.  They will give their gift only if an investor agrees to extend their loan for another three years. There is an all-out blitz on investors to get them to sign away their existing right to repayment.  When a company pressurises lenders to extend their loans as quickly as possible it is normally a sign that the company is in trouble. In some of the communications we’ve seen the deal is described as follows:

“We are inviting you to become a shareholder in High Street PLC by issuing free shares.  By simply completing the reservation form included, we will switch your existing capital to achieve 45% return over 3 years. You will receive the equivalent amount of capital switched as free shares in High Street Plc”.  This new 3 year deal ties the investor in for the full term with no early exit option.  There are a number of points to note:

1. In some cases the email includes a copy of what The High Street Group describes as “their accounts to December 2019”.  They do make the point that these are unaudited accounts, however a check at Companies House confirms that this document has not been filed and the company is still 1 year and 2 months overdue with its account filing.  High Street GRP Ltd is required to submit audited accounts and it is never a good sign when a company is that long overdue.  It is quite often an indication that the auditors are not comfortable putting their reputation on the line by verifying that the accounts are an accurate representation of the company’s financial position.  It’s a worrying sign for investors.

2. Solvent companies do not normally seek to extend debts for another three years into the future. A lot can happen in 3 years.

3. The letter we have seen is offering shares in “High Street Plc” (see the quoted paragraph above in italics).  It says it in two places.  There is no High Street Plc registered at Companies House or indeed on any worldwide public registry.  There is High Street Group Plc, but if the letter meant to say High Street Group Plc then it is very, very sloppy for them to get their own company name wrong.  Our concern is that they may not have got the name wrong and they may be intending to incorporate a new company called High Street Plc and offer shares in that entity.  That will have no value whatsoever for investors.  In other words, our concern is that these free shares may be a con.

4. Some of the investors who have contacted us over the past few months have already written to us to say that they will not be accepting this offer and intend to pursue their claims for repayment of their loans against the High Street Group companies.

On 11th October 2020 we sent a Pre-Action Notice to High Street GRP Ltd demanding payment of a client’s overdue debt and advising them of the client’s intention to file a winding up petition against the company in January.  There is a moratorium on the filing of winding up petitions until January 2nd 2021 in cases where a defendant is likely to use Covid-19 as an excuse, hence the investor’s decision to wait until the moratorium is lifted.

The client has confirmed today that he will not be accepting The High Street Group offer and it is still his intention to file the winding up petition in January.  We will be filing supporting creditor claims with the court once the initial petition has been sealed.  We are also working with investors who lent their money to other companies within the Group structure and it is likely that further winding up petitions will be filed in January if their debts remain unpaid.  There are at least 78 linked companies.

You can view our previous article on The High Street Group here.

 

Scam Alert

Limetree Wealth Scam

Limetree Wealth Scam 300 233 SOS Team

Limetree Wealth Scam.

An organisation calling itself Limetree Wealth is perpetrating a follow-on-fraud against victims of a number of scams.  We are aware of investors in the Essex and London Properties scam (under Police investigation) and the Park First Scam.  They have the contact details and investment history of investors.

The scammers claim to be Limetree Wealth Management Ltd, a UK company incorporated in November 2015, but they are not.  Limetree Wealth Management Ltd are a victim of identity fraud. The scammers have searched for a credible sounding company which does not have a website and have stolen its identity.  The scammers have their own website which for the moment can be found via this link.  This website was only built in July 2020 which is a clear indication of a scam.  We are hoping that our intervention will result in the website being taken down in the next few days.

Their scam is interesting in that they try to make investors believe that there is some kind of insurance registry.  For example, Essex and London Properties was a bond scam.  Park First was a parking plot scam.  The Limetree Wealth scam is based around there being a fictitious “registry” whereby when the scams are launched, the founders apparently pay money to Limetree Wealth to insure against failure.

When the scam is exposed, Limetree Wealth contacts investors to tell them that the registry is holding funds, but the investor has to pay a fee to have the money released.  Of course the whole thing is a complete fabrication. But…. the salespeople, one of whom goes by the false name of Fraser Birch, are very persuasive.  We know this because we have a 15-minute recording of his sales patter.  We have sent it to a Police Officer who specialises in cyber-crime.

Firstly, it is clear that ‘Fraser’ is a native UK citizen.  His accent gives that away.  He tells the investor that he can be sure they are genuine because he can check that Limetree Wealth Management Ltd is registered at Companies House.  When the investor queried that the Companies House entry shows the company is registered in Yorkshire, but the brochure he has been provided with says “Hanover Square, London” that stumps Fraser a little bit.  He wasn’t expecting that.  Then when he is told that there is no record of Limetree Wealth being at the London address he gives a less than convincing explanation about Head Office versus satellite offices.  He just keeps repeating that Limetree Wealth Management Ltd has been in existence for 5 years and he can see that at Companies House.

Fraser then goes on to explain how the fictitious registry works.  Of course, he has to tell the investor that there is only a limited pot of money available and it is being paid out on a first-come first-served basis, therefore the investor should hurry up and make a decision.  Fraser tells him that he could probably get a contract out to him in a couple of hours. Then, if the investor can sign it and make payment straightaway, Fraser should be able to get their “legal team” to expedite the claim before the end of the day and the investor would receive the money in three weeks time (we particularly like the fact he said “let me just check when the payment will be made if you pay today” and pretended to go through some paperwork to find the payment date).

When the investor said that he would like to receive the contract and have some time to consider it, Fraser took this onboard and said that he would have the contract sent through by 12.30 and would call back an hour later to see if the investor had made his decision. That’s very considerate of him to give an investor a full hour.  Fraser couldn’t resist taking the Limetree Wealth scam a step further by asking if the investor had any spare cash to invest because Limetree apparently have their own specialist advisory team which can tailor an investment to suit the investor.  Here’s their rather pathetic sales brochure.

Limetree Wealth Scam Brochure  

If you are contacted by Limetree Wealth do not pay them anything.  It is a scam.

 

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