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Sunday, 23 June 2013

Nouveau World Wines Ltd/ Finbow Wines Ltd fraud trial: Dina Snelling cross examined


Greenock Creek, Roennfeldt Road, Shiraz 
Label for 1999 shown but nb this case involves 2002 vintage
label from wine-searcher.com



Defendants:
Simon Robert Dempsey
Rebecca Louise McDonald
Daniel Thomas Snelling
Dina Louise Snelling

The case before His Honour Judge Michael Grieve QC  is in Court 8 at Southwark CrownCourt, London SE1. 

Dina Snelling: cross-examination on 19th June and 20th June
with Jane Osborne prosecuting. 

Dina Snelling was asked when Nouveau World Wines Ltd started. Dina didn't recall when the company started. She explained that for much of 2006 she had been in hospital as she had a very difficult pregnancy. Nouveau World Wines started receiving money in the summer of 2007. Dina was not aware of the size of the company at that time or from where it was operating.  

When Dina joined Nouveau in March 2008 there were 10 people working there – three or four openers and two closers plus Daniel Snelling. Asked about Simon Jenkins, the finance director, Dina replied that he had left by the time she arrived. Dan Jackson was the business development manager. There was no finance director to replace Jenkins.

After a couple of months working as an opener, Dina moved to the back office to work with a Lucy Jones. When Lucy Jones left Dina took over managing the office and used Lucy Jones' name. Asked whether she got Lucy's permission to use her name, Dina said no she didn't think to ask. 

Osborne suggested that Lucy Jones and Simon Jenkins never existed that instead they were personas of Daniel Snelling. Dina disagreed saying that Lucy existed but she couldn't comment about Simon Jenkins as he had left before she started in March 2008. However, documents continued to be sent out in the name of Simon Jenkins, finance director, after Dina took up her role as office manager. For example, a receipt sent to Mr Ore on 28.7.2008 was signed by Simon Jenkins, although there was a pp, there had been no permission sort or given to use Jenkins’ name.

Dina agreed that at this point there was no real organisation of records etc.

In June 2008 she took over the running of the Globex account from Dan Jackson. This account was used to transfer money to Australia for wine purchases. Australia was the sole country where Nouveau was buying wine. In total just under £450,000 was transferred to Australia to pay for wine purchases. Of this total £100,000 was transferred before Dina took over responsibility for the Globex account. This responsibility ran for 10 months from June 2008 to April 2009. Over this period £350,000 was sent.

Osborne asked Dina Snelling whether she thought this was enough to cover all the investor trades being done by Nouveau when the individual trades were mainly for £5000 or more and sometimes as much as £30,000 to £40,000. Dina: “I thought £35,000 was a lot of money to cover the cost of the wine.” 

Peter Podmore
Dina was questioned at some length over a number of wines that Podmore, an investor, bought from Nouveau World Wines and should have been stored in his account at Winevaults in Sydney.  The questioning focused in particular on 144 bottles of Greenock Creek 2002 Roennfeldt Road, Shiraz, Barossa Valley, Australia. Asked why it wasn’t in Podmore’s account, Dina said that Podmore had not decided which wines from his portfolio he wanted to sell. Osborne asked what difference did it make – the wine could have been transferred into his account. Dina reiterated that Podmore hadn’t decided which wines to sell.   

In all there were only six or seven investor accounts opened at Winevaults in Sydney.

She was asked about the initial plan for Finbow Wines Ltd to offer Old World Wines. She said that there was a white board on the wall of the trading floor, which showed them which wines were for sale. No wines had been bought. The intention was to set up a storage account at London City Bond (a bonded warehouse) but one wasn’t in place at the time. Finbow Wines was a joint partnership between Simon Dempsey and Daniel Snelling. Dempsey speaks fluent French. 

Dina was asked about Green Leaf, the proposed eco friendly, ethical, sustainable investment – wind, water, Dina: “Australia has drought problems”. She explained that she went out to Australia in late December 2009 to start a new life and it was her role to set up the office in Sydney. The plan was for an office employing 12 people – openers, closers and a back office. It would have been the responsibility of Daniel Snelling and/or Billy Davies to source the green investments. She returned at the end of January 2010 at the request of Daniel Snelling to sort of administration problems at Finbow.

During the time of Nouveau World Wines Dina was paid by cheque or by bank transfer; during Finbow’s existence she was paid in cash. “This was how I wanted to be paid,” she explained. She denied that the arrangement was designed to hide how much money she was taking out of the company.  Regarding her salary with Finbow there was no written agreement, no pay slips or records totalling what she had been paid.  

Finbow: three containers
Once Finbow moved over to selling Italian wine to the Asia-Pacific market there were three containers sent – two went to Hong Kong and one to Nigeria. Asked why Nigeria as it had nothing to do with Finbow, Dina said that that was a question to put to Daniel.

The last shipment went in September 2009. Dina explained that after September she had said that she did not have time to arrange shipments due to pressure of work in the office. 

Two sets of invoices
Dina Snelling was asked about the two sets of invoices found on the laptop computer seized by police in Simon Dempsey’s car in November 2009 and on a USB stick found in March 2010 at Daniel Snelling’s home. The first set of invoices was from Dragon Tower, while second set is ‘purportedly’ from Global Cellars – the prosecution alleges that the second set of invoices was created in house at the time when the company was subject to an investigation by the UK Companies Investigation Branch (part of the Insolvency Service).

The alleged intention was to hide from Mr Streeter from the Companies Investigation Branch that Nouveau World Wines Ltd had bought nothing like enough wine to cover the amounts ordered by their investors. Thus a second set was created in March 2009 with amendments being made over 3 hours 35 minutes on 24th March 2009 – starting at 20.07 and finishing at 23.42. The total spent on wine in the second set is the same as the first set of invoices. The difference is that there is more wine and prices of the wine are less in the second set.

Dina Snelling denied that she had created the second set of invoices – she would not be working at ten o’clock at night! The computer was not exclusively hers there were other people in the office who had access.

Osborne suggested that: “she was best placed to do this exercise" (create this second set of invoices) as Daniel Snelling was useless at computers as Dina had already testified. Dina denied that she had created the files and said that Daniel knew enough about computers to save files.  

Dina Snelling’s case closed on Thursday afternoon (20th March).

Rebecca McDonald’s case was scheduled start on Friday morning. I did not attend court that day. Once McDonald's case is finished the trial will move onto closing speeches followed by the summing up and directions to the jury by His Honour Judge Michael Grieve.  



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