Friday, 19 August 2011
Vintage Hallmark plc: mixed success for the SFO
The long running series of trials into Vintage Hallmark/ Hallmark Partnership, the largest drinks UK drinks investment scam came to an end this week at Harrow Crown Court. There have been reporting restrictions on some of these cases.
The fraud involved initially persuading American and Canadian clients, mainly from the medical profession, to invest in a range of over-priced alcoholic drinks, including whisky, Cognac, Champagne and wine. The Hallmark Partnership started their sales drive in 1995 and was run by David Lamb, Richard Gunter and Robin Grove. In November 2000 it was 'acquired' by Vintage Hallmark plc. The clients of The Hallmark Partnership were persuaded to swop their investments for equity in Vintage Hallmark plc, who had imposing offices at 36 St James's Street, one of London's most exclusive streets.
Equity in Vintage Hallmark plc turned out to be worthless when the company collapsed in January 2003 owing just under £80 million, which led to an investigation by the SFO (The Serious Fraud Office)
Vintage Wines of St Albans (company linked to Vintage Hallmark/ Hallmark Partnership)
The first trial involved Richard Gunter and three employees. All were found guilty in September 2008 and Richard Gunter was sentenced to four and half years for fraud. Those convicted included Haroon Khatab, who was later found guilty of another fraud involving Tahir Tandoori Frozen Foods Limited. Khatab was sentenced to two and a half years imprisonment for his part in Vintage Wines of St Albans and he received nine months for his part in the tandoori fraud.
Vintage Hallmark plc
On 1st June 2010 Richard Gunter pleaded guilty to this fraud and was sentenced to five years and is subject to a Serious Crime Prevention Order.
Robin Grove, a fellow director, was acquitted of one count of false accounting, while the jury were unable to come to an agreed decision on charges of conspiracy to defraud. The trial had started in June 2011 and finished at the end of July. The SFO and The Crown have decided against seeking a retrial.
Disqualified as directors
In December 2006 Richard Gunter and Robin Grove were banned from being UK directors for 15 years for their part in this investment fraud. The disqualification will run until December 2021. Gunter is prohibited from carrying out investment business in the UK.
Their business partner, David Lamb, committed suicide on 1st November 2003.
For further details see here.