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Monday, 2 May 2016

The Mysteries of Montevino Partners

A look at the Montevino Partners website is reassuring it is lists both its founder and its wine experts. However, compare these details with those filed with UK Companies House and questions start to emerge.  

The Founder - Martin Edgerton Gill

You might imagine that Monetvino Partners' company name would be Montevino Partners Ltd and there is a Montevino Partners Ltd, which was incorporated on 17.4.2014. Thomas Roger White (DOB: 18.4.1979) is the sole director. The £1000 share capital is split between £950 for Thomas White and £50 for David Parker. However, Montevino Partners Ltd is a dormant company – accounts for a dormant company were filed to 30th April 2015 were filed on 11.1.2016. 
Instead Montevino Partners is the trading name of Spirited Ventures Ltd, which was incorporated on 19.7.2013. Thomas White (appointed 6.5.2014) is now sole director. The previous sole director – John Ellis Jeffrey – resigned on 28.5.2014. Share capital is £1000 – £250 Thomas White, £225 Bilhar Singh, £250 David Parker, £100 Adrian Nurse, £115 Michael Wilson and £35 Peter Pipe.

Although Martin Edgerton Gill is credited with being the founder of Montevino Partners he has never been a director or shareholder was the company. It is not clear whether Gill still has any involvement in Montevino Partners.

Claudio Martins is profiled as wine director. Martins did work for the company from May 2014 but left by December 2014. I understand that he is not happy that he is still listed as Montevino's wine expert and is seeking to have this removed from the site. 

Daniel Carnio is listed as their wine expert. However, it appears that he is also no longer with Montevino Partners. Although a Google search mentions Montevino Partners is on his Linked-in profile, there is now no mention of any involvement with Montevino Partners on his current profile. 

No named wine experts apparently remain involved but Montevino Partners does still have a Michael Moore, whose brother Paul Moore of Manor Hall, Chigwell is disqualified from acting as a UK company director for 14 years – a very lengthy ban that runs from 5.12.2014 to 4.12.2028. Paul Moore was the sole director of Manor Rose Carbon Credit Ltd. Curiously it appears that the deficit is only £201.

Paul Moore's ban is set out in WIREDGOV here: Court closes web of unscrupulous landbanking and carbon credit companies that raised £6.5 million from investors. Among the companies closed was Dakota Partners International CC Limited, a land banking and carbon credits company. Michael Moore was 'responsible for the Dakota sales staff' and was paid £224,900.37 by Manor Rose on £224,900.37.   

'Although Mr Moore asserts that Manor Rose had no inter-relationship with the other companies such as Dakota, it is apparent that this is not so as the provisional liquidator has reported that Manor Rose paid Mr Michael Moore, Mr Moore's brother who was responsible for the Dakota sales staff, the sum of £224,900.37 on 4 November 2010. Despite requesting an explanation from Mr Moore, through his solicitors, on 12 March 2012, Mr Moore has yet to respond.' WIREGOV  

Moore has been charged with fraud and stealing more than £100,000. The case was transferred to Maidstone Crown Court with a preliminary hearing on 1st May 2015 and listed for trial on 25th January 2016.    

'01-05-2015 Maidstone Crown Court 5 T20157172 / T20157173,
Haydon Driscoll
Michael Robert Moore
Details: For Preliminary Hearing - Case Started - May 1 2015 
For Preliminary Hearing - Case to be listed for Trial on 25-Jan-2016'

It is not clear whether the trial went ahead on 25th January 2016 or whether it has been delayed.  

Montevino Partners website was registered on 9.1.2014. There are no Terms & Conditions listed on the site.

I think I will probably pass on Montevino Partners – thanks.  


Monday, 11 April 2016

Capstone Formations Ltd – a truly remarkable history! Compare and contrast

 Traded £9.6 million worth of wine between 2013 and 2015!!

It is always interesting to compare and contrast!

The history of Capstone Formations Ltd by James Hutton, the company's director:
He studied at the London school of business and economics and then worked in many financial districts around the world. He has build up a strong reputation in the City of London and has helped 1000s of clients whilst working under the name of some of the largest companies internationally. 

In 2010 James started planning and building his own company  – Capstone Formations Ltd. The limited company was incorporated in 2013. Capstone Formations grew rapidly managing the portfolios of over 2000 clients within the alternatives market. He was able to employ a further 30 staff. 

The company offers expertise in fine wine, gold bullion, property and diamonds. 

In December 2015 Capstone completed talks that had been started at the beginning of the year and merged with Fenbow Fortune Enterprise Ltd, whose business is mainly in the Far East.

Between 2013 and 2015 the company traded £9.6 million worth of wine. Capstone Formations has grown 30% every year since 2013.   

 'Restructuring and diversifying portfolios' 
'The growth of the company from 2013 to 2015'

The history of Capstone Formations Ltd from documents filed with UK Companies House
Fenbow Fortune Enterprise Ltd, the former name of Capstone Formations Ltd, was formed on 11th December 2013 with Konstantin Nemchukov
as the sole director. Nemchukov has 300 company appointments and appears to work for a company formation agents at 3rd Floor, 120 Baker Street, London W1U 6TU.     

Fenbow was a dormant company until early 2016 filing dormant accounts up to 31st December 2015 (filed 4.1.2016). 

On 12th January 2016 Nemchokov resigned as director. 26-year-old James Hutton (DOB: January 1990) was appointed as the sole director on the same day. Hutton, described as a builder, lives at Flat 237 Glebe Court, London Road, Mitcham, Lodnon CR4 3NZ. Also on 12th January Hutton became the sole shareholder holding the £1 share capital and the registered office changed to 2 Queen Caroline Street London W6 9DX. This is a Regus serviced and virtual office. 
The following day (13th January 2016) the company name changed from Fenbow Fortune Enterprise Ltd to Capstone Formations Ltd. It has no connection with the US equity company – Capstone Partners, although this may have been a factor behind the choice of 'Capstone'.  

The Capstone Formations Ltd website was registered on 7th January 2016.   

Formation of Fenbow Fortune Enterprise Ltd: 
11th December 2013 

Balance sheet of dormant company – 
Fenbow Fortune Enterprise Ltd with £1 share capital 

Change of company name on 13th January 2016 
from Fenbow Fortune Enterprise Ltd 
 to Capstone Formations Ltd.  

Capstone website registered on 7.1.2016 

James Hutton's director's details

My conclusion:
Although it is clear that considerable time has been spent on the Capstone Formation Ltd's website, I prefer to believe the version filed with Companies House. This indicates that James Hutton's version is complete fiction and obviously designed to fool potential investors that Capstone Formation Ltd and James Hutton have the necessary expertise to advise investors and to manage their portfolios.  

Hutton claims to have studied at the 'London school of business and economics' – I can find no record of any such school. He claims a glittering financial career prior to 2010. However, in 2010 Hutton was just 20 years old and the filing of his directorship of the company lists him as a 'builder'.

Capstone did not start trading until January 12th 2016 at the earliest, so did not trade £9.6 million worth of fine wine. Nor did it merge with Fenbow Fortune Enterprise Ltd – that was merely a change of company name. 

Is James Hutton, a builder from Sutton, the real director or are others involved?

I will be giving James Hutton and Capstone Formations Ltd a very wide berth as I have never had any interest in investing in porkies. 

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

'Wine investment scam' – Westminster Fine Wines Limited – 12-year ban for Jeff Berrill


36-year-old Jeff Berrill (DOB: 24.1.1980), the sole director of fraudulent Westminster Fine Wines Ltd, has been banned for 12 years from acting as a UK director. Berrill ran a wine investment scam selling wine to investors but failing to buy any. 

Berrill was initially disqualified for five years from acting as a director by Blackfriars Crown Court on 16th December 2015. This has now been extended to March 2028. On 6th November 2015 Berrill pleaded guilty at Blackfriars Crown Court to 5 counts of dishonestly making false representation. He was sentenced to 12 months in prison suspended for 24 months.  

Founded in October 2011 with a share capital of £10, Westminster Fine Wines Ltd went into liquidation on 27th February 2014 when Nedim Ailyan of Abbott Fielding Ltd based in Sidcup was appointed as liquidator. The estimated deficiency was £232,326 with £231,066 owed to trade and expense customers and £2000 to Barclays Bank. Ailyan found that no wine had been bought. The company did not have an account at any UK bonded warehouse.
In his statement of affairs (27.2.2014) Berrill listed the company's assets of £1400 – £400 in office furniture and £1000 in wine. Ailyan's liquidator's report (11.3.2015) noted that Berrill thought that this case of wine 'may have been transferred into his personal account in error. The director has not provided any further details regarding any wine held personally.'  

Berrill took in £335,720 from investors but never bought any wine. £244,443 was paid out of Westminster Fine Wines Bank accounts. This included payments to restaurants, pubs, hotels, supermarkets and to retail outlets of £61,854 and payments to Berrill of £43,562. 


Press Release from Insolvency Service:
Jeff Berrill has been disqualified from acting as a director for 12 years for taking payment from investors for wine that was never purchased and failing to keep records of the company’s transactions.

On 11 February, following an investigation by the Insolvency Service, Mr Berrill gave a disqualification undertaking to the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills not to promote, manage, or be a director of a limited company from 3 March until 2028.

Westminster Fine Wines Limited was incorporated on 7 October 2011, offering wine investment to private investors, with Jeff Berrill as the sole director and shareholder. 

Mr Berrill had worked in the wine investment industry* for a number of years and states that when the company was set up, the wine industry was booming. However, the wine market soon suffered a significant downturn. Confidence in wine investment fell and the market saw drops of 20% to 30% in wine prices, with several companies going out of business. 

In late December 2013, the company received notice that the bank was withdrawing its funding and on 27 February 2014, the company was placed into liquidation. 

The Insolvency Service investigation found that:

  • Mr Berrill caused Westminster Fine Wines Limited to trade with a lack of commercial probity.
  • Between 3 August 2012 and 31 May 2013, at least 11 investors purchased at least 57 cases of wine from Westminster, for which Westminster received payments into its bank account of at least £194,885.
  • The investors were informed by persons representing Westminster that the money would be invested on their behalf in fine wines which would be stored in a bonded warehouse facility.
  • The wine paid for by these investors was never purchased by Westminster.
  • When Westminster entered into liquidation, no fine wines were available and no others assets were available to enable a distribution to these investors.
  • Records provided by Mr Berrill show that Westminster received £335,720 from clients for whom wine was never purchased or delivered to a bonded warehouse. These additional investors have not made claims in the liquidation.
  • Mr Berrill also failed to maintain and/or preserve, or in the alternative, failed to deliver up accounting records.
  • As a consequence it is not possible to explain and account for the sale, purchase and disposal of wine, or explain and account for the disposal of investor’s monies.
  • It also not possible to determine the reason for payments from the bank account of £244,443, which included payments to restaurants, pubs, hotels, supermarkets and to retail outlets of £61,854 and payments to Mr Berrill of £43,562.
  • It is not possible to verify if Westminster received the benefit of these payments and why any assets that were purchased with these funds were not available for creditors on liquidation.
At the date of liquidation, Westminster had no assets and liabilities of £233,066.

Commenting on the disqualification, Cheryl Lambert, Chief Investigator at the Insolvency Service, said:

Directors have a duty to ensure that they act competently and with commercial probity. Directors who do not comply with this basic obligation can expect to be investigated by the Insolvency Service and enforcement action taken to remove them from the market place.
Mr Berrill misled investors and did not purchase the wine for which they had paid at least £194,885. Investors’ money was spent and records were not maintained to account for how the funds were disposed of, which could have enabled them to recover some of the money.

Mr Berrill’s conduct demonstrates that he is unfit to be a director of a company and taking action against him is a warning to all directors to seriously consider their actions and to comply with their obligations.
* Doubtless for other scam wine investment companies. 

NB: investdrinks has amended the Insolvency Service's Press Release by marking some passage in bold. 

Notes to editors

Westminster Fine Wines Limited (CRO 07801068.) was incorporated on 7 October 2011. Its registered office was 50 Broadway, Westminster SW1H 0RG. It traded from the same premises. Jeff Berrill was the only director at the time of liquidation.

Westminster Fine Wines Limited was placed into liquidation on 27 February 2014.

Jeff Berrill is of 62 Cavendish Drive, Northampton. His date of birth is 24 January 1980.

On 6 November 2015, Jeff Berrill was, upon his own confession, convicted upon indictment of 5 counts of dishonestly making false representation to make gain for self/another or causing loss to others/exposing others to risk. He was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment suspended for 24 months in the Crown Court at Blackfriars.

The Secretary of State accepted an undertaking from Jeff Berrill on 11 February 2016. The disqualification commences on 3 March 2016.

A disqualification order or undertaking has the effect that without specific permission of a court, a person with a disqualification cannot:

  • act as a director of a company
  • take part, directly or indirectly, in the promotion, formation or management of a company or limited liability partnership
  • be a receiver of a company’s property
In addition that person cannot act as an insolvency practitioner and there are many other restrictions are placed on disqualified directors by other regulations.