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Friday, 21 May 2010

Seale Wines and Château Lafite 2008

I recently received the following message from KA explaining that they had been contacted by Seale Wines Ltd.     


‘Recently I was contacted out of the blue by a company called Seale Wines about investing in some Château Lafite Rothschild 2008 (en primeur) and promising me, well the world. I took all this with a pinch of salt but was already interested so I agreed to give it a go.

Before finalising any of the agreements and signing anything I undertook to do a bit more in-depth research on the wine, the company and the area of wine investment. I couldn't find a whole lot to indicate either way whether the company was good, bad or indifferent. Not a lot to that, I thought, they're a small business and it's a niche area.

Then as I started to look at the area as a whole I found your site, which I found very informative and reassuring. The company in question didn't appear in your list of known dubious operators and as a company they seemed to check out. It wasn't until I read your piece about the instant offices that I noticed one of the addresses you listed is exactly the address Seale Wines are using on some paperwork they sent to me. So, now better informed as a result of reading your site I'm certainly not going to complete the transaction and I just wanted to drop you a line to thank you for providing this information.’

Seale Wines Ltd
The company was founded on 26th September 2006. Its registered office is Suite 165, 456-458 The Strand, London WC2R 0DZ. This is an accommodation address and Suite 165 is likely to be the number of their mailbox. The previous registered office was at 55 Station Approach, Hayes, Bromley, Kent BR2 7EB, so it may be that the company is another of a number of wine investment companies that are based around the Bromley area.  

The company may have been dormant until at least September 2007 as dormant accounts up to 30.9.2007 were filed on 23.9.2008 at Companies House. The latest accounts (total exemption small) made up to 30.9.08 were filed 

KA was offered the opportunity to buy 2008 Lafite en primeur at £5750. This is a remarkably keen price as a quick check on wine-searcher shows that the cheapest UK price shown there is £7200 from London based DAFT Investments. Slurp.co.uk have it for £7500, while Fine & Rare Wines list it for £7950 a case. The 2008 Lafite is unlikely to be shipped to the UK before the first half of 2011.

Seale Wines Ltd’s Terms & Conditions appear to contravene the Distance Selling Regulations over cancellation rights:

‘Cancellation:  You may cancel your order at any time and for any reason within seven working days of signing the Wine Reservation Form.  Your payment will be returned in full.’

The Distance Selling Regulations allow the buyer to cancel at anytime up to  seven working days from the day after the customer receives the goods not from the time of signing the form. In the case of buying wine as an investment that is already bottled this will be seven working days from day after the wine reaches the customer’s account in the bonded warehouse – either their own account or their customer reserve account. It is less clear with en primeur when the period of cancellation ends. 

My comment
I would certainly go along with KA’s decision not to go ahead with the proposed purchase from Seale Wines Ltd, especially as they would be buying en primeur. Seale Wines has no real track record. Their price for the 2008 Lafite is remarkably low and one has to wonder whether they really will be able to supply it at the price quoted.

From the downloadable brochure their understanding of the UK tax laws in respect to Capital Gains Tax and Income Tax appears to be rather sketchy.    

I have emailed Seale Wines Ltd asking for confirmation of the price of the 2008 Lafite and would also welcome any comments they have on this post.  

Response from Searle Wines Ltd: 24th May 2010:  

Dear Mr. Budd,

Thank you for your recent email. Unfortunately we are not in a position to offer any Chateau Lafite 2008 at this time.

Thank you for your enquiry


Kind regards


Purchase order from Seale Wines sent to KA last Thursday for a case of 2008 Lafite, which they were unable to supply on Monday 24th May. I have added the approved stamps to hide KA's details.

 

30 comments:

  1. Dear Jim

    An acquaintance of mine dealt with Seale wine back in 2008, so they were not dormant but trading I will supply you his name and details not only that Seale were selling Australian wines as an investment.... Further proof can be supplied that this was done while supposedly dormant...

    let the tale unfold, it seems it will be interesting

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  2. Anon. Thank you – I look forward to receiving further details.

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  3. Have you passed this information to the fraud squad? as they cant be buying the wine!
    How many more people have parted with money?

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  4. Certainly anyone who feels that they have cause for complaint or concern should be using the new Action Fraud line. In this incidence the person contacted declined to go ahead.

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  6. I myself have purchased the 2008 Lafite back in December, my colleague has also purchased some wine recently (not sure what exactly).
    Its not uncommon for people to use suites as offices in London. I have personally been to many to visit clients as its cheaper than getting a regular office, espeiclaly if you do not attend meetings.

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  7. Investigator16 July 2010 12:24

    I have some grave news on this front, the company is not returning any phone calls, their telephone number is going through to a mobile phone, on which the voicemail is full.
    There is no director listed for this company as Kai Seale resigned in January 2010.

    Be very wary of this company

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  8. Investigator

    Thank you. Can confirm that the T-Mobile number message box is full. The latest set of company accounts are overdue and should have been filed by the end of June.

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  9. I fear I have fallen foul to this. I purchased a case of Lafite en primeur in Nov 2009, and now I can't contact them at all. What can I do?

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  10. Aon. If Seale Wines has indeed stopping trading it will depend upon whether they ordered and paid for the wines their clients ordered.

    If they did there is a chance you will get your wine. If they didn't then unless you paid by credit card, then you are unlikely to get anything back.

    If Seale Wines has ceased trading and disappeared, the you should report this to your local police station. Also I submit a report through ActionFraud.

    This may be an unfortunate illustration why it is so important to deal with established companies when buying en primeur.

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  11. Anon

    BTW I'd be very interested to know what you paid for the Lafite.

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  12. Thank you for that (I think!). Naivity can be a cruel teacher.
    I paid £4400 for a single case of the 08 lafite en primeur back in Nov 09. I was guided to the Winesearcher website at the time, and have been gleefully following the steady increase in price ever since.
    Unfortunately I paid by direct bank transfer.

    At what point can you say a company has ceased trading? How can I find out if they did indeed order the wine?
    The certificate of ownership I have is now looking like something a five year old could knock up on the pc.

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  13. Unfortunately over the years a number of people have discovered to their dismay that a certificate of ownership for an en primeur order can prove to be worthless.

    A reputable company would announce that they had ceased trading. Unfortunately the address for Seale 456-458 The Strand is I think just a mailbox.

    I tried to phone them last week and was put through to a full mailbox. I think you will probably have to assume that they have ceased trading if you cannot contact them, so I would file a complaint with the police as soon as possible.

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  14. I have filed a report with Action Fraud and also reported this to my local police. Worryingly, the name rang bells with the officer I spoke to. They are listing it as "suspicious circumstances" pending further investigation, and are taking it very seriously as possible large scale fraud.

    Thank you for your help in this - I really wouldn't have known what to do.
    A trusting nature really doesn't get you anywhere in this world, does it?

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  15. Anon. Good to hear that you have successfully reported this to your local police. Seale Wines is yet another wine investment company with a link to the Bromley area. It is possible that the police will find connections to Nouveau Fine Wines and to Finbow Fine Wines.

    I assume that Seale cold called you. If my assumption is correct, it underlines the wisdom never accepting a cold call about any investments, despite the arguments put forward by the apologists of cold calling.

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  16. Actually, I expressed an interest on their website and then was phoned, so it wasn't technically cold calling. Whilst searching the net for companies, Seale Wines were always at the top of the search - which I suppose shows the added value in paying money to Google etc to have a high profile advert.
    High profile, as I have painfully found out, does not mean high quality, but they certainly looked like they were.
    Incidentally, I phoned the Mailbox company that lets those offices in The Strand, and they confirmed that Seale Wines had indeed been trading from there, but then became cagey when I pushed them for confirmation they were still there.
    I'm sure the police will get what they want - the case has now been passed on to the Financial Crimes Squad.

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  17. I feel I should make people aware of my experience with Seale Wines.

    I was approached via a cold call late Jan ’10 and received their introductory letter and brochure shortly afterwards. Then I was offered the Chateau Lafite Rothschild 2008 (en primeur) for £4400. I purchased this by cheque early March ’10. Later in March I was offered the Chateau Mouton Rothschild, Chateau Margaux, Chateau Haut Brion and Chateau Latour 2008 en primeur for a total price of £10700. I was also referred to winsearcher.com and could see the prices were competitive.

    I purchased the above set and hence made a total outlay of £15100.

    When I hadn’t heard from the company for a while I sent an e-mail late June. There was no response I followed this up with further e-mails then telephone calls and finally last week a registered letter. The letter was signed for but I guess this was just by a person dealing with incoming mail at the building. I have received no response from any of my communication attempts.

    I have reported this to the police and given them copies of relevant documentation. My impression talking to the police was that the chances of recovery of my money were very slim indeed.

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  18. Anon2 - I am very sorry to hear that. The police advised me that there is only a criminal case to be brought if it can be shown that at the time they took our money they knew they could not fulfil their financial obligations. If they have gone bust since that time, then it is a civil matter that would begin with us talking to a solicitor.
    I purchased my wine in Nov 09, but you have puchased much more recently. I find it hard to believe that Seale Wines were not aware then that they were in difficulty.
    Hopefully the police will pursue this.

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  19. Anon. It would also be a criminal matter if a company failed to place orders and the promises made to secure the sale could lead to conspiracy to defraud.

    This is a general comment as we don't know at this stage whether Seale Wines placed orders or not.

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  20. The Police Officer I spoke to said that the company had not ceased trading from Companies House information. So they have gone missing as opposed to going bust.

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  21. That would appear to be the case. They are still listed as being an active company at Companies House.

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  22. I bought some Australian wine from Seale two years ago I was told by Seale that it was in a bonded warehouse and was my property. Does anyone know the whereabouts of the bonded warehouse used by Seale and how to recover the wine already paid for?

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  23. How did the name and address of an individual investor get posted on this blog?

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  24. For australian wine the Seale brochure says they use "aus vault" and "wine vault". Looking on the web winevault details are at http://www.winevault.com.au/ Couldn't find "aus vault".

    Maybe you could make some enquiries with the above warehouse.

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  25. Anyone who has invested with Seale Wines should contact Winefraud@live.co.uk. This is a body of members who initially set up as a group affected by the major NWW scam of a few years ago. They are now on to Seale Wines, and have contacts with the Met and also Wine Vaults.

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  26. This all sounds very unfortunate.
    The t-mobile number is still active and so is their bank account, so if we can prove they acted unlawfully, then they can be prosecuted.
    That may mean some compensation can be gained.
    Alternately where the mystical bonded warehouse (if it exists) is, or where the wine was purchased from.

    Either way, its easy enough to trace who these guys are since the original person who started up the company still exists, and he would have had to employ someone.

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  27. Alas, I have also been had by this apparent scam having purchased two cases of Château Mouton Rothschild 2008 earlier this year.

    My attempts at contacting Seale have also gone un-answered. A very sickening situation.

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  28. The bonded warehouse normally exists and in my experience acts in good faith. In any case the Lafite 2008 will still be in Bordeaux and not due to be shipped until the first part of 2011.

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