The case, before His Honour Judge Michael Grieve QC in Court 8 at Southwark Crown Court, is likely to conclude in some time in the first part of July. Evidence will probably finish this week or early of next. Speeches and judge's summing up will take up next week with the jury likely to retire in the first week in July to consider their verdict.
After a late start for the court, cross-examination of Simon Dempsey continued through the morning and into the afternoon.
On the advice from his solicitor Dempsey made no comment to the two police officers when he was arrested and questioned at Limehouse on 4th March 2010. He was asked a series of questions – what he knew about Finbow, who was running the company and who owns it, who had control over the bank account etc.
The cross-examination was largely devoted to going through in detail various subsequent accounts given by Dempsey – in evidence to the court, a statement that Dempsey gave to the Insolvency Service (25.2.11), when he was interviewed by a Mr Stone, and his defence statement (25.10.12) that has to be prepared for this trial. Unlike when questioned by the police, the Insolvency Act requires that questions are answered. Furthermore the Perjury Act applies, so false answers could lead to a prosecution for perjury.
Before turning to his statement made to the Insolvency Service, Christopher asked Dempsey about how he came to be involved in Finbow and how he came to leave the company. Dempsey said that he had a series of meetings at Café Rouge (Bromley) with Daniel and Dina Snelling in the early part of 2009.
At this time Dempsey was unemployed as his building business had collapsed due to the economic downturn. He was declared bankrupt on 29th January 2007 and exited bankruptcy on 29th January 2008.
Dempsey explained that it was agreed that he would become a director of Finbow to assist with the general setting up of the company. In negotiation with Daniel Snelling he arranged to take a loan of £25,000 in the first instance, which was subsequently increased to £35,000. Romance with Dina Snelling blossomed in the bar of Café Rouge and he saw her most days.
Questioning then turned to how Dempsey left Finbow. He described a meeting on 9th October 2009 with Billy Davies in the square at the centre of Canary Wharf where he was given a ultimatum to leave the company with a payment of £25,000 and a subsequent payment of £60,000 – a year’s salary as a golden handshake. Dempsey said that the £25,000 was for wages that he had not received. Dempsey said that his decision to accept was made in “a matter of seconds”. It was – “take it or leave it” – he took it. He and Davies went to a bank with the Finbow bank card and drew out the £25,000 with the Finbow bank card that Davies had brought to the meeting. Dempsey said that Davies then took the bankcard back to the Finbow office.
Dempsey said that this was effectively the end of his involvement in Finbow. In subsequent evidence Dempsey agreed that he had been involved in subsequent payments and bank transfers. This included a transfer to Hong Kong of £10,000 on 30th October 2009. Dempsey was in Highgate when he was phoned by Rebecca McDonald, who asked him to make the transfer as she wasn’t able to leave the office. At that time Dina Snelling was in hospital. The company bank card was in the office. Snelling said he always carried photo ID with him – his driving licence. The transfer was arranged. Dempsey said he wanted to ensure “the smooth running of the business”. He was also invited to rejoin the business in early 2010 when Paul Rees, the director who succeeded Dempsey, decided to leave.
In Dempsey’s statement to the Insolvency Service (25.2.2011) he said that he was already in a relationship with Dina Snelling when “I was out in as a director of Finbow to learn the business”. A builder by trade Dempsey had no experience in wine. Although Finbow wasn’t a full time job, Dempsey said he visited the offices almost every day. He paid invoices and arranged the shipping. In his statement Dempsey said that, “he wasn’t keen on the man who had started the trading”.
Dempsey did not have his own office at Finbow. He used a spare, empty desk in Daniel Snelling’s office. Billy Davies also had a desk here for part of the time that Dempsey was involved in Finbow.
Asked why there is no mention of Billy Davies in his statement to the Insolvency Service, Dempsey said that at the time he considered Billy Davies to be “an insignificant party to the business” and “wasn’t aware how much Billy Davies had his feet under the table”.
Dempsey was asked questions about his defence statement (25.10.12). In it he explained that ‘he was a married man with a daughter. He had fallen in love with Dina Snelling and that he had volunteered to become involved to cement relationship with Dina'. Christopher pointed out that there appeared to be a discrepancy in the accounts of how he became involved as a director in Finbow and whether or not his relationship with Dina preceded his involvement in the company.
The defence statement stated that Dempsey ‘had no office at Finbow' and was ‘an infrequent’ visitor to its offices'. Christopher pointed out to Dempsey that he had told the court that he was in the offices everyday (or nearly every day). Dempsey replied that he was saying that he was not full time but that he was in the offices “almost every day”. Dempsey said that his statement was “open to interpretation”.
The statement also said that he was responsible for “the organisation of wine shipments through ACE Freight Ltd”. Questioned on this, Dempsey said that he had effected the introduction of Edward and Deborah Merriman, directors of the freight company who were personal friends of his. Asked whether his statement suggested a greater involvement than an introduction, Dempsey said it was a question of “how it was interpreted".
Dempsey’s defence statement said he negotiated a parting payment with Daniel Snelling to buy himself out of the company. There is no mention of Billy Davies in this statement.
In a letter (1.2.2010) concerning the £10,000 seized on 26.11.2009 as part of an investigation into the ‘proceeds of crime’, Dempsey wrote that he ‘decided to sell interest back to Finbow. Following discussion a payment of £60,000 was agreed”. Christopher reminded Dempsey that he had told the court of his meeting with Billy Davies (9.10.09) regarding the ultimatum offer that he had “weighed it up in a matter of seconds”.
Dempsey was asked about an envelope found at his flat when the police searched it on 4th March 2010. On the back of the envelope were a series of handwritten transactions from Finbow’s bank account. All except the first transaction listed are from after Dempsey’s departure from Finbow. The writing is Dempsey’s but he could not remember why it was complied. He could recall some but not all of the transactions listed. Some of the transactions were Royal Exchange, a company involving Billy Davies. Dempsey said that he did not know the level of Davies’ involvement at the time.
Dempsey was asked about the use of false names by Dina Snelling: Harriet Harbridge during Nouveau World Wines and Lucy Jones during Finbow. Dempsey: "Not odd – she was in sales" adding it was "not a big issue". Christopher remarked that Dina Snelling was not in sales. She worked in the back office.
Christopher concluded his cross-examination by suggesting that Dempsey was the “official frontman for Finbow hiding the involvement of Daniel Snelling”. “This is what your role was – the name on the company notepaper.” Dempsey strongly denied this – “Not at all.” He had no suspicion that the proceeds could have come from crime.
Dempsey agreed that he had full access to the bank accounts. Christopher said that he could have seen that only three containers of wine were bought by Finbow – two going to Hong Kong and one to Nigeria. That all three containers had been paid for in September 2009, that no evidence exists of any wine bought subsequently and that from September 2009 “money from investors was coming in thick and fast".
Dina Snelling will be giving evidence today.
The investigation into the two companies was carried out by the Metropolitan Police. The defendants have pleaded not guilty to the charges.