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Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Bordeaux Wine Trading Company: Paul Craven looted investors' money

There are a number of reasons why I'm delighted that Paul Craven, 'managing director' of the Bordeaux Wine Trading Company Ltd (BWTC) was found guilty of fraudulent trading on Monday at the second time of asking. 

The guilty verdict shows that you can't just take investors' money on the pretence that you are buying Bordeaux en primeur, and instead blow it on a succession of cars, expensive watches, almost continuous holidays, a flat and £100 a week cocaine habit.

During his evidence Craven said he was proud to be 'managing director' of a company that was doing well. In reality Craven was the looter in chief – very far from the 'managing director'. Ann Evans, the Crown Prosecutor was right when she told Craven – "You treated BWTC as your own private piggy bank". 

I'm delighted because it underlines that a jury often comes to the right decision in drinks investment trials. At the end of the first trial last autumn the jury couldn't decide whether Craven and Oseghale Hayble were guilty in relation to BWTC, so there had to be a retrial. As previously reported Hayble became ill during the trial, so Craven was left as the sole defendant. I suspect that at the first trial the jury, faced with a number of defendants and three different companies – BWTC, International Wine Commodities and Templar Vintners, they felt they couldn't safely convict Craven for his part in BWTC. 

Happily this time it was different. In the full glare Craven's threadbare defence was evident. It was not in dispute that the company had never bought any wine for its investor clients. Instead Craven claimed that it was Hayble, who had been responsible for buying the wine.  He maintained that he assumed that Hayble was buying wine. Craven, the sole signatory on the bank account for much of BWTC's fraudulent life, claimed he had taken Hayble's word as his bond as he passed over wads of cash in brown envelopes to Hayble. Laughably Craven explained that Hayble had told him that if he paid for the wine in cash they would get a 50%-60% discount of the First Growths they were selling to their clients. 

Craven claimed that he was still passing great wads of cash over to Hayble even after Hayble had left to set up the equally fraudulent International Wine Commodities Ltd. On one occasion £85,000 was "handed over" in the car park of the Maze Inn in North London. Curiously Craven never thought to ask for a receipt for any of this cash. Nor did he appear to think it curious that there were no receipts for wine bought, although the company did keep records of invoices and bills for office furniture, computers and the like. Furthermore Craven acknowledged that one of his few tasks at the company was to check the bills. No receipts for the £1.2 million taken from BWTC's clients to buy investment wines? "I trusted Hayble – took his word as his bond," said Craven.

Yet at the same time Craven claimed in the witness box that Hayble was spending a lot of time in night clubs – drinking heavily and snorting cocaine. No receipts for the cash handed over! Flying pigs territory! The simple answer was it was never Craven's intention to buy any wine. From his very short time as a salesman at the Bordeaux Wine Company Craven had learned that there is easy money to be made in flogging wine as an investment to naive punters. Even easier, if as was the case with BWTC, you simply trouser your clients' cash.             

It is clear from the unanimous guilty verdict that Craven gained no friends from his egotistical display in the witness box. Although he mouthed some platitude about having "a duty of care to BWTC investors to ensure that their wine was bought", Craven couldn't have cared less about the clients he had fleeced to provide him with coke, flashy cars, smart clothes, designer watches etc. The only person he felt sorry for was – Paul Craven – the last defendant and in prison on remand. "I've been left to carry the can!" he bleated.     

Testimony from the sales force painted Craven as a bully who could be charming when he wanted to be but was unpredictable. Craven insisted that his boiler room sales team pounded the phones incessantly – not as it turned out because of a work ethic but to pour more cash into his pockets. "It was sometimes difficult to even get a coffee," said one of the salesmen.

At the autumn trial Hayble along with Benedict Moruthoane were found guilty for their part in the International Wine Commodities fraud and, in addition, Moruthoane for the Templar Vintners fraud. On 5th January 2011 Moruthoane was sentenced to 7.5 years, which is a considerable sentence for fraud.

On Thursday it will be the turn of Paul Craven and Oseghale Hayble – I hope they, too, get substantial sentences.      

Finally I'm delighted that Hertfordshire police's economic crime unit carried out the investigation and obtained these convictions.   


It was extraordinary to watch convicted fraudster, Frederick Achom, give evidence that he is a partner in the Bordeaux Wine Company Ltd, a wine investment company set up in 2002 by Achom and his fellow fraudster – Anthony Grant. Both men were banned in 2002 from being directors for 11 years until July 2013. Yet here they are running a wine investment company as shadow directors. Achom testified that up until 2006 was he was in charge of buying the wine, while from other testimony given during the trial it is clear that Anthony Grant is fully involved in the day to day running of the company, particularly in managing and training the sales staff.  

Why one might wonder bother to ban people from being directors if you are not going to enforce these bans?



  1. Thanks for the update and well done for your part in this success Jim!

  2. Thanks Rod. Good to see the police taking on these investigations.

  3. As much as this is a victory for those defrauded by Craven and Hayble, I suspect in a couple of years time they will be released early from prison and able to set up shop again just like Achom and Grant.

  4. Anon

    Craven was given six years today and Hayble five, so they won't be out of jail in two years.

    I do share your concern that Achom and Grant can effectively run a company, particularly one offering wine investments, while banned from being company directors.

  5. Thanks Tim. Watch Andy Hayman giving evidence before the Select Committee and you get the picture!

  6. £100 a week my eye, sorry Jim but you must've missed a zero there!

  7. Anon. There is no missed zero. I'm reporting what Craven admitted to in the witness box. However, it did strike me at the time to be a rather modest sum.

  8. As always, Jim, congrats - investdrinks is the place to go. And congrats to the Hertfordshire fraud unit.

    As you taught me years ago, they will pop up again.

  9. Jim,

    Two years ago we wrote to you addressing your questions and reservations as to the business model and ethics of Bordeaux Wine Company. Some of our clients also commented as to their experiences with us which on the whole was favourable. It is clear to see that like a majority of reporters a story is not enough without it being sensationlised often to the detriment of fact and truth.

    You have weighted your views about BWC in a concerted effort to undermine our core principals by associating BWC with the fraudulent trading of BTWC despite the fact that it was made clear in court that we had no dealings or involvement with them from the day they left our employment. You are receiving praise for the conviction of the directors even though you were not involved in the investigation as far as we are aware. We have no doubt that you are well aware that BWC and its principals were instrumental in reporting and bringing this case to light. At no stage have you bothered to mention that both BWC, DC Thody and the Hertfordshire fraud squad worked together to bring these people to justice, we can only assume you were not aware of this fact. if you require a statement from DC Thody we am very sure he would be very happy to provide it. We have been commended by him on several occasions for our help in this matter.

    We would also like to bring it to your readers attention that you have conveniently misstated the corporate status of BWC as a LTD company even though you know and have stated in past that we are in fact a Partnership and therefore not contravening any laws. After nearly 10 years in operation with many satisfied clients with a track record of proven returns (which again, you conveniently refuse to publish on your site on the last occasion) you continue to imply that we are in some way not above board in our dealings with our clients. If you require testimonials and performance reports over the last 10 years we are more than happy to provide them so you can publish for your readers. If you have come across a BWC customer that claims he has not received wine purchased we would be quite happy to address this; If you have a customer who claims he or she has lost money on their investment after holding for our advised period we would be happy to address the matter also.

    You have been quick to label our principals fraudsters for convictions of over 12 years ago and no dubious dealings or convictions since. May be for you no amount of time or business practices will allow you to look forward and focus on current dealings instead of the past, thankfully a majority of our clients have been able to judge us on current results instead of those of over 15 years ago. We are happy to say a majority of our clients are satisfied and are happy with the services provided by BWC. We can only imagine the same goes for the authorities that prosecuted this case otherwise we would not have been called to testify for the prosecution if they were under the impression we were not a legitimate organisation or in some way misrepresenting the market, it was in fact to the contrary, as we were called to testify on behalf of the prosecution because we have in-depth knowledge of the operations of a legitimate wine company and have proven our business model to be sustainable and fruitful for investors.

    It is clear to see that your website is very one sided and geared towards villainising those you wish, whilst creating the illusion of fairness and impartiality. We know this because several of our clients informed us that they commented positively about their dealings with BWC on your site but have claimed their comments have not been published in the past, so no doubt this practice will continue even after this response.

    Please let us know if you require testimonial or performance reports of wines purchased from BWC so your readers can judge for themselves.

    We will say no more on this matter and thank you for your time.

    Charles Pope

    Head of Marketing and Communications

  10. No doubt this was written by Achom and not Pope!
    I wonder if all the clients of BWC wanted to see their wines today how many of them would actually get the wines they have purchased or the money for the wines!!?? 1% if they are lucky?
    As far as i am aware every time you want to sell your wine "bought" with BWC they tell you it's the wrong time or come up with any other excuse! But most of the time you don't even get through to speak to anyone!
    In my opinion BWC is a cleverly run scam with 2 convicted fraudsters as shadow directors.
    Of course in 10 years of running this scam they have scooped up a lot of cash from their clients and if odd one wants his money back, they can afford to give it to him.
    Helping police it's a very clever thing to do as it takes the "light" off BWC.

  11. Anon. I think to call BWC a scam you would need to know whether they buy all the wine that they sell. From messages received over a number a years their prices are high and some clients have reported that they have had difficulty getting BWC to sell their wine.

    My guess is that this was probably written by Anthony Grant.

  12. I have no sympathy for those who defraud their own. I can see Paul and others like him think they are entitled to spend other peoples money and let everybody down in the process, also making a mockery of himself by posting all the evidence of his lifestyle on Facebook.

    Only a four year sentence? I hope he does the hardest time to teach him a lesson; and he should never should be allowed to be a 'managing director' EVER again.

    Maybe if they hadn't closed Odd bins, things might have been different.

    As for others who are thinking of doing the same, think carefully. Thought you were a bit smarter than that Paul. Your father must be hanging his head in shame. If what I have read is true, and you did this for personal gain, I hope anything they give you to drink in prison tastes like vinegar. Because from what I have seen, you deserve it for the anguish and ill feeling caused left in the wake of your utter selfishness.