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Thursday, 26 March 2015

Scam APW Asset Management Ltd wound up in public interest


 
APW Asset Management Ltd was wound up in the public interest in the High Court, Manchester yesterday. The company had clear links through directors with the Bordeaux Wine Company Ltd see here. I trust that the Insolvency Service will now be looking at these links. The owner(s) of the parent company – The Big Wine Company  – have yet to be identified.   

Press release from Insolvency Service:  

Misleading wine ‘investment’ company with ‘shadowy’ majority shareholder closed down following Insolvency Service investigation


First published: 26 March 2015



APW Asset Management Ltd, a company which sold Australian wines to clients for investment and capital growth purposes, has been wound up by the High Court in Manchester on 25 March after making baseless claims that misled investors. 

An investigation by the Insolvency Service found the company made a string of patently false claims as to the soundness both of the potential investment returns and of how wines sales would be handled.  

In addition, the court heard that the company operated with a lack of transparency as to ownership and control. None of the company’s directors or personnel were able to provide information on the whereabouts or, indeed, existence of its 95% majority shareholder; and the control of the company does not appear to have rested with the appointed directors.

The company’s website claimed “APW proudly occupies the role of a ‘fiduciary’ in all its dealings, providing clients with a rare opportunity to obtain uncompromising and genuinely independent advice, free from conflicts of interest”. In contrast to this claimed role of fiduciary the investigation found that:
  
• since 2013 the main source of income for APW was from buying back wine from clients and reselling this wine to new clients, a process known as repack sales. Repack sales accounted for 91.2% of APW’s income by March 2014

• these repack sales resulted in the selling clients suffering an average loss of 44.3% on the price they had originally paid to APW for the wine


• APW then sold the same wine to new clients at an average profit mark up of 81.3%


• the new clients were unaware that the wine they were buying had been sold by other APW clients who had suffered sizeable losses


• the selling clients were led to believe that their wines were being sold by APW on the open market and not to new clients at a considerable profit to APW


• APW exploited the selling clients further by delaying or withholding payments due to them, including failing to remit in excess of £50,000 to the estate of a deceased client. The selling clients were falsely told that delayed remittances were attributable to extended settlement terms or to sales being made overseas when, in reality, the wine had been immediately sold to a new client who had made prompt payment to APW. The total amount due to clients in respect of unpaid remittances is estimated to be £600,000


• the delayed issuing of sales invoices and remittances to the selling clients has created confusion as to which client has legal title to the same wine by the company’s own calculation there is a deficit of 19,482 bottles of wine that should be held at a bonded warehouse on behalf of clients


Commenting on the case, Colin Cronin, Investigation Supervisor, said

APW used high pressure sales methods which emphasised the growth potential of its wine. Yet the viability of APW, in the latter years at least, depended upon its clients suffering losses on the wine they had bought for investment purposes. The company then cynically sold this same wine to new clients at a considerable profit for itself. This conduct is the very opposite of the fiduciary duty the company owed to its clients. 

These proceedings show that The Insolvency Service will take robust action against companies which operate against the public interest in this way.


I am aware that APW clients are now being targeted by a variety of businesses who falsely claim to have buyers for the wine, or to be able to release wine held by APW, or who are offering wine management services for the payment of upfront fees. I would urge clients to exercise great caution if approached by companies which purport to be able to assist in recovering their past losses. 

Similarly I would urge anyone cold-called and pressured to invest in any kind of investment to simply end the call as genuine investments are not likely to be sold in such a manner.

Notes to editors

APW Asset Management Ltd – company registration number 4618582 - was incorporated on 16 December 2002 under the name of Australian Liquid Assets Ltd. It changed its name to Australian Portfolio Wines Ltd on 22 January 2003 and to its current name, APW Asset Management Ltd, on 29 January 2013. The company’s registered office is at Pacific House, 382 Kenton Road, Harrow, Middlesex HA3 8DP.

The petition to wind-up APW Asset Management Ltd was presented under s124A of the Insolvency Act 1986 on 18 March 2015. The company was wound up on 25 March 2015 and the Official Receiver has been appointed as liquidator.


Company Investigations, part of the Insolvency Service, uses powers under the Companies Act 1985 to conduct confidential fact-finding investigations into the activities of live limited companies in the UK on behalf of the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS). Further information about live company investigations is available.

All public enquiries concerning the affairs of the company should be made to: The Official Receiver, Public Interest Unit, 4 Abbey Orchard Street, London, SW1P 2HT. Telephone: 0207 637 1110 Email: piu.or@insolvency.gsi.gov.uk.






Tuesday, 17 March 2015

The very persistent 'George Richards' of Prime Trading 5 Ltd


A message from AT about Prime Trading 5 – a company I would avoid at all costs not least because it breaks the 2013 Consumer Contract Law.
  
'I came across your blog as I was searching the web for information on the above company. I wondered whether you would want to learn of my recent experience of them. I have had persistent phone-calls from 'George Richards' trying to convince me what a profitable investment fine wines would be were I to engage with this company.

Always wary of unsolicited phone-calls from unknown sources, I asked him whether he had any information which he could send to me to confirm that he and the company were genuine. This information did arrive in the post, but as I didn't find it to be very convincing, I tried to find the company via the internet. Instead, I only found your blog with its warnings about this company.

'George Richards' is still phoning several times per day. Sometimes he calls from phone number 07795817103. At other times the call is identified as "withheld". I've stopped answering when the number is displayed. When "withheld", I have answered and when he has revealed his identity I hang up.'

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Watch out! Former EFW customers targeted by variety of scams

The former offices of European Fine Wines Ltd in Bromley



Former clients of EFW/European Fine Wines Ltd are being targeted by a variety of scamsters – all dedicated to thinning clients wallets even further. Most overpaid for the wines they bought from EFW. It is very clear that client lists including not just contact information but also details of the wines they purchased have been passed around – sold on etc.

Over-high valuations and Chinese sales   
Some like Lewis Samuels of Samuels & Parker Ltd are making remarkably high offers on portfolios. Samuels, based in Downham and Dubai, tend to claim that he has a Chinese buyer for these wines – unfortunately the Chinese buyer has a tendency to be rather fickle and change their mind. More recently he has also found a UK buyer to pay around £72,000 for a portfolio valued by another, long established broker at £55,000.  

London City Bond – fake employees 
Other scamsters have pretended to be employees of London City Bond claiming to have located wine that they say they can sell for the client. Of course an advance fee is required to facilitate this sale. Needless to say – see the letter from David Hogg from London City Bond below – this is a lie. Like the famous Nigerian 419s this is looks to be advanced fee fraud.     

Dear Customer 

I am writing to you as the former storage provider for European Fine Wines.

As you will be aware European Fine Wines have now been placed into Liquidation and we are currently working with the appointed Liquidator.

However, it has been brought to our attention that some customers have received telephone calls and letters (see below) from unknown individuals, claiming to be from London City Bond (LCB) and offering to buy their wines or in exchange for a fee, secure your stocks from the Liquidator.

These people do not work for LCB and we never cold call any customers offering such services.

Should you receive any such calls, we would urge you not to accept any offer under any circumstances.

If you are able to ascertain any details about the caller, number used etc we would be grateful for this information in order that we can pass this on to the Police.

Please feel free to contact our Customer Services team on 0843 659 3617 or at vtcustomerservices@lcb.co.uk for any further assistance.

Many thanks.

Regards
David Hogg

Sales Director



Text of letter above
12th Feb 2015

Dear Mrs

We write to confirm that we have located fine wine assets under your name which have been within our bonded warehouse. The storage for your assets are now due for renewal and so can you please inform us how you wish to proceed. We can offer you an option to sell your case of wine and we have been approached by an interested buyer who would like to present a formal offer of £7,228.91.

If you are happy to accept this offer of sale, a fee of £722.89 will be due to cover fees for the sale of which we will complete on your behalf.

Should you have any further queries, please contact us on 0207 859 4313.

Kind regards

James Reynolds
Storage Management


Abbott Fielding/Grant Thornton – fake employees
This is a variant of the fake employees at London City Bond. This time the scamsters claim falsely to be employees the liquidators and for a fee can release clients' wines. Again this looks like advanced fee fraud. 

Message from Nedim Ailyan of Abbott Fielding Limited:
    
'Evolution of Conmen

I am writing to you to see whether you could give assistance, as we have noticed over the last week or so a worrying development in the evolution of conmen in relation to commodity fraud and in particularly wine fraud.

As you are aware I am the Liquidator of in excess of a dozen wine frauds, the vast majority have been dealt with by the Police.  We have had disturbing calls from creditors over the last 3 or 4 days, where creditors have been contacted by individuals purporting to be from Abbott Fielding and requesting they pay across a sum of money to release their wine.

I have contacted other insolvency practitioners and established that Grant Thornton have also been the victim where third parties have contacted creditors of companies they are dealing with alleging they are from Grant Thornton and requesting payment of small sums of money to release their goods.

We have contacted the relevant authorities to advise this and are currently collecting the names and phone numbers which will be forwarded on to the Police.

Nedim Ailyan
Abbott Fielding Limited