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Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Fraud trial@St Albans: 'There seemed to be a never ending supply'

Stephen Creaton 
In the second half of last Friday's morning session prosecution witness Stephen Creaton, a tele salesman, gave the first part of his evidence. Creaton described how he had been employed by a number of wine investment companies.

He started with the Bordeaux Wine Company where he worked from approximately April 2006 to October 2006. As he had no previous experience of the fine wine industry – "I'd never worked in wine before" – much of his time at BWC was spent being trained by Anthony. The software programme used was Goldmine, which is a way of keeping a record of calls to customers.

Mr Creaton said that at BWC there was a senior sales team, which consisted of two women, and a junior team which consisted of between 8-10 people. Oseghale Hayble, one of the defendants, was the manager of the junior sales team. Creaton's pay at BWC was £25,000 a year basic then a commission rate that ranged from 2%-4%.

In October 2006 Hayble invited Mr Creaton to join the Bordeaux Wine Trading Company, a new wine investment firm selling en primeur Bordeaux and based in Potters Bar. Creaton moved companies as BWTC was closer to his home and the money was better: £1000 a month retainer and 10% commission once you had earned £1000. It was a two room office operation with the offices separated by a long corridor and a number of other offices that were quite independent of BWTC. The larger room was the salesroom with 9-10 telesales staff. Paul Craven, one of the defendants, was usually in the small office along with a girl who handled the admin.

The sales staff cold called potential investors using a three-page script. Hayble gave  Mr Creaton his script. Although Mr Creaton got on well with Hayble the relationship with Craven was more difficult. "They were like chalk and cheese. Craven was rash and harsh – always looking for money. No pleasing him. If you weren't on the phones he wanted to know why."

Creaton became unhappy with the job. The whole set up started to ring alarm bells. This was crystalised when Craven said he was going to Bordeaux to pick up wine. "Although I didn't know all the ins and outs I knew you couldn't just go to Bordeaux to pick up wine as everything goes through the négociants. It wasn't quite right and I was concerned. I stopped selling and started to look for an exit."

Creaton was 'let go' in Spring 2007 and went to work for a family run wine investment business based in Edgeware. He worked in the back office sending out cheques covering for someone who was off on maternity leave. He stayed four to five months.

Creaton received a call from Hayble who told him that he was no longer with Craven and that he was setting up International Wine Commodities Ltd in Wheatstone, although they had a Mayfair postal address. Commission was 10% up to £25,000, 15% from £25,000-50,000 and 25% thereafter. Hayble's partner in IWC was Benedict Moruthoane, another defendant. Creaton said that Moruthoane was the "silent partner" in IWC.

At IWC there was a white board on which the wines they had to push were marked up and the sales team would cross off cases as they sold them. At BWTC there had been an unchanging list of the five First Growths. "The wines stayed the same," said Creaton, "although the price would change. There seemed to be a never ending supply. There was never a stop point."

Creaton explained that he didn't use his own name because business cards had aleady been printed with another person's name and that their elderly customers preferred to deal with someone with an Anglo-Saxon name.

Mr Creaton worked at IWC until the company was raided by Hertfordshire Police who closed down the company. Hayble claimed that this was "a bit of a mistake" and that the police had confused BWTC with IWC. 

Creaton was due to be cross-examined on Monday but I wasn't at the court.




  1. In the case of BWTC, IWC & TVL the judge has changed the charges for all defendants concerned from Conspiracy to defraud to conspiracy to commit fraud. This has come at the beginning of the prosecutions close. Is this legal?

  2. If this is change is correct I assume that it is legal, otherwise there would be a possibility that the trial could collapse if the judge hadn't followed accepted procedures.