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Sunday, 3 July 2011

The Bordeaux Wine Trading Company: fraud trial 30th June - 1st July 2011

Thursday St Albans: 30th June 2011 and 1st July 2011

Defendants: Paul Craven

Fraudulent trading
Between 21st July 2006 and 19 June 2008 knowingly party to the carrying on a business of a company Bordeaux Wine Trading Company with the intent to defraud the creditors of said company, BWTC took £1.2 million from its clients. Only £12,200 has been recovered.

It is accepted that the Bordeaux Wine Trading Company Ltd bought none of the wine (all en primeur) that their clients ordered. 

Samantha Cohen, Craven's defence barrister, took Craven through his evidence starting with his time with Bordeaux Wine Trading and, in particular, his admiration for Freddy Achom's life style. Craven saw Achom a couple of times flying past in a Ferrari and a Lamborghini along with tales of weekends in Monte Carlo and Cannes. Craven agreed that he thought "I wouldn't mind a bit of that lifestyle myself".

In the summer of 2006 Craven said he asked Nik Cashman if he fancied setting up a similar business to BWC? Cashman readily agreed on the condition that we can get Oseghale Hayble on board. The spark to set up BWTC had come from Paul Craven. However, he said that "I didn't have a clue about what we were doing. At this point I had only had 4-6 weeks experience in wine investment, whereas Nik had had one year and Oseghale had several years' experience".

Craven said that he had a meeting with Hayble to sound him out in an All Bar One at Oxford Circus. Hayble agreed to join them if "I can purchase the wine". Craven explained how they set up the company and Ms Cohen took him through a number of invoices and bills for office furniture, computers, the Goldmaine program and the like. Craven was the sole signatory on the bank account. Checking bills was part of Craven's management role.

Hayble persuaded a number of sales staff to come across from the Bordeaux Wine Company. Niklaus Cashman and Hayble did the job interviews. "I didn't know what was needed to be a good salesman," said Craven. 

The content for BWTC brochure and website was copied from the Bordeaux Wine Company. "It was put together by Nik and Ose. I had no substantial input, although I did read it through."

"Ose was always meant to purchase the wines. I couldn't even pronounce the châteaux's names for the first six months. I didn't have one contact in the wine trade. Ose told me that he was dealing with Bud Cuchet, buying director of Fine & Rare Wines Ltd." Craven was shown an email sent on 9th February 2007 from Cuchet enclosing a list of 'what we can offer'. Craven didn't think he had seen this email.

(Although there was contact with Fine & Rare Ltd, a fine wine broking company established in 1994, no orders were placed or wine bought.)   

It was Ose's signature on the certificates sent out to investors. Craven never sold a case of wine at BWTC. "I couldn't do it. Hours and hours of conversation on the phone. Let them get on with it really."

"Ose was meant to be dealing with the wines." It was Ose who decided what price to charge for the wines. "I wouldn't have known what price to charge," said Craven. "We gave Ose cash to purchase wine." Although Craven was the sole signatory on the bank account until September 2007 when Cashman became a signatory, the company debit card was for Hayble and Cashman's use. "The card was there to be used," said Craven.

On 3rd January 2007 Hayble and Craven became directors of the company. "I felt good about it – managing director of a company doing well. It was recognition."

Their secretary Lauren Reynolds was with the company for between 4-7 months. From time to time she would be kicked out of the office. "It was so Ose and I could sort out the money and for general chat. We would be handling 10s of thousands of £s, so we didn't want her to see this."

Ms Cohen asked Craven why they had paid for the wine in cash. "Ose told me that if we paid in cash then we would get a 50-60% discount for cash. Ose put us all in the shit because he didn't buy the wine – I wouldn't have known that he wasn't buying it."

Craven described how Hayble was given wads of money – £85,000 in one instance – in brown envelopes. "We were buying wines en primeur – wines that would not be delivered for 18 months to two years." Craven explained that they had a computer program that would allow password protected access to the accounts from anywhere in the world.

In July 2007 Hayble resigned as a director of the Bordaux Wine Trading Company telling Craven that he wasleaving to set up a modelling agancy. Craven claimed that he and Hayble had "a firm agreement that Ose would continue to purchase wine – "he would take cash and purchase wine. This was what was supposed to be happening." Craven explained that he met Ose at various places. "We met at the Maze Inn – sometimes in the carpark and sometimes inside. Ose, who could log in to see what had been sold, was always given the money in cash to purchase wine," insisted Craven.   
More to follow.  


  1. Jim

    I've been cold called by these guys; Fine Wines of the World Ltd . Know them? Their ‘pitch’ was that I should be buying en primeur 09 and 10 because they "know" tons will be drunk at the Olympics thus pushing prices up.

    Offered 09 plamer & 10 lascases at £2600 & £2250 respectively. Seems remarkably competitive, so as a start-up business I query where they’re making their money in en primeur. Certainly the almost laughable aggression of the salesman left me with a feeling of dread, so mindful of the horrid situation with BWTC thought it prudent to bring them to your readers’ attention. History repeating itself?

    Oh yeah - one more thing; they announced they were calling from Mayfair, but an 0208 Bromley number came up on my phone.

    Apologies for staying anonymous, but the guy I spoke for was SO aggressive I prefer not to leave my name.

  2. Thanks anon. First time I have heard of this company. From records at Companies House it was set up on 21st July 2010. The registered office is at 16 Hanover Square, London W1S 1HT c/o Paul O'Toole. 16 Hanover Square is a serviced office/ accommodation address, so not surprise that you were phoned from a Bromley number. From wine-searcher Palmer 09 can be bought from £2375 and Léoville-Las-Cases from £2155, so not a high mark up.

    However, as the company was only set up last year it has no en primeur track record, so I wouldn't buy from this company.