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Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Fraud trial@St Albans: Templar Vintners Ltd

(Proceedings rather seem to have jumped ahead of themselves moving rapidly onto Templar Vintners, the third and most recently formed company involved in this trial. A question I think of juggling with witnesses' availability. Doubtless there will be a return to evidence involving the Bordeaux Wine Trading Company and International Wine Commodities.

The Judge – His Honour John Plumstead may have revealed that the judiciary have also been subject to government cuts when he referred to 'his creaky old laptop'.)

Dr Francis Leigh Moss
Dr Moss explained that he had been contacted on his mobile phone by a Daniel Price, a salesman for Templar Vintners Ltd. Initially he was surprised to be contacted on his mobile as he rarely gave the number out. On reflection Moss thought he might well have filled out a form expressing interest in buying wine for investment. He had already previously bought wine for investment from the Bordeaux Wine Company.

Moss said that Daniel Price was confident, well spoken and had an air of knowledge – he spoke the language (of wine investment). In October 2009 he agreed to buy a case of 2008 Ausone (St Emilion) en primeur for £7740. As well as his invoice Moss received a Templar Vintners brochure, which looked 'glossy', 'professional', 'establishment – at the upper end of the market and a 'multi-million pound' company stating that 'Templar Vintners is one of the leading fine and rare wine merchants'.

In December 2009 Moss bought a case of 2008 Lafite-Rothschild for £4200. After Christmas he decided to rationalise his wine investment portfolio: to sell the less well performing wines to free up funds to buy wines that would show a greater return.

Looking at his portfolio Moss concluded that it was "the highest and scarcest wines from the best vintages – 2000, 2003 etc. which had given the best performance. This was a good time to remove the less good wines from my portfolio, sell them and reinvest. I was open to offers and Templar Vintners raised the question of an exchange."

It was arranged that the wines Moss wanted to sell would be bought by Bordeaux Index Ltd "a highly reputable, secure company (Moss)" and the wines transferred from Branford bond to London City Bond. The deal was worth between £13,000 and £15,000. Templar Vintners would use the money raised to buy new wines for Moss.

Before he went ahead with this new deal Moss decided, given the amount of money involved, that  he needed to do more research. He checked with Companies House and discovered that Templar Vintners was incorporated in 2008 and had changed its name during 2009. There were two directors: Andrew Griffiths and James Allie. Moss could find out little about Griffiths but discovered that Allie was a Liberal Democrat councillor in Brent, so felt reassured.

Moss was also worried that the firm's address Hamilton House was 'an address of convenience'. That his contact with Templar Vintners was by mobile phone and that the brochure had used material from other companies – "cut and pasted". "Looking at the brochure I became more concerned – not a true and genuine document'. He told Templar Vintners that he was not prepared at this time to go through with the deal.

On a Friday evening in January around 5pm he spoke on the phone with an Ethan Brook who was "agitated, angry and affronted". Brook accused him of "neneging on the deal – a deal that he had requested". Moss asked for his money back on the previous deals but was told that this wasn't possible for legal reasons as under the Distance Selling Regulations there was a six week tiime period.

Moss asked for reassurance that this was a genuine deal and asked for a signed letter from Andrew Griffiths or James Allie. He asked in particular for reassurances from James Allie as he thought someone in James Allie's position would not be involved in something that was not legal and above board.

Moss never received a signed letter from either Griffiths or James Allie.  He did receive an email purporting to come from Allie but it wasn't signed. The transfer never went ahead nor has he received any money back for the two cases of 2008 that he ordered.

Under cross-examination from Mr Smith, representing Andrew Griffiths, Moss agreed that the brochure didn't mention 'multi-million pound company'. However he drew this inference from Templar's claim: 'our clients benefit directly from our immense buying power, amassed through years of experience'.

The trial continues.

3rd November 2010:
Please note that Andrew Griffiths has now been severed (official parlance) from this case with a new trial date to be set in due course.


  1. hey, when are we going to see an update, very interesting reading Mr Budd.

  2. Anon. There will be an update when I have time to get to St Albans. Early next week I expect.

  3. Anon: 'are you aware of any other way to get an update on the trial.'

    No. I think press coverage will be intermittent. I'd go up this week but have to get a magazine out by the end of this month, so chained to a computer.

  4. Any idea when judgement is likely?

  5. I gather that the trial is expected to last four to five weeks but it could take longer as their are six defendants. Then it will depend upon how long the jury deliberates. Probably towards the end of November but this is only a guess.

  6. These are fascinating, thanks for the updates, i'm looking forward to the next one!

  7. Hello Jim, any idea how the case is going?

  8. Anon. Sorry been frantically busy. Hoping to get to St Albans tomorrow.