Glenn Ward resigned on 22nd September 2014 and was replaced on the same day by 24-year-old Ibrahim Tarkou (DOB: 13.2.1991).
Prestige's single share was initially held the company's secretary until she resigned in October 2012 when it passed to Glenn Barrington Ward. The last return filed on 9th April 2014 showed Glenn Ward as the sole shareholder (£1). There is no record of the share being transferred to Tarkou when Ward resigned in September 2014.
Spencer Road was company's initial registered office. This was changed to 100 Pall Mall, London SW1Y 5NQ, a serviced office, in May 2010. In October 2013 the registered office changed to Anova House, Wickhurst Lane, Broadbridge Heath, Horsham, East Sussex RH12 3LZ. This is the address of Anova chartered accountants, who were for a while accountants for Prestige Fine Wine. Anova ceased to be Prestige's accountants as the company's accounts were so poor. There was a further change in October 2014 when Prestige Fine Wine Ltd's registered office moved to Airport House, Purley Way, Croydon CRO OXZ. The company had no physical presence there and this arrangement ceased on 4th February 2015. Thereafter there is no record of a functioning registered office.
Although there is no suggestion that Prestige Fine Wine Ltd was linked to Blakeney Bridge Wines Ltd and its associated raft of carbon credit companies, also recently closed in the public interest, were registered at Airport House.
However, Glenn Ward, the previous director, was in contact with the Insolvency Service. He told the investigation that a second company – Prestige Collections Ltd – was being operated through Prestige Fine Wine Ltd. This could not be verified as there were no records.
Prestige Collections Ltd was founded on 19th October 2011 and dissolved through compulsory strike-off on 16th July 2013. Its registered office was 205 High Street, West Wickham, Kent, United Kingdom, BR4 0PH – the address of accountants Withall & Co Ltd. There were four directors: Catherine Elizabeth Ellis (DOB: 15.8.1985), Laureen Veronica Delisser (14,9.1983), Clive George Davidson (DOB: 3.9.1971) and Glenn Barrington Ward. Davidson was appointed on 19th October 2011 and resigned on 8.11.2011. No accounts or returns were filed and the company was dissolved on 16th July 2013.
The court heard that diamonds were the business of Prestige Collections Ltd. Glenn Ward alleged that Clive Davidson 'ran off with £1 million of the company's money'. However, the court was told that this allegation could not be verified. Registrar Barber and Counsel for the Secretary of State expressed concern that this arrangement involving the two companies was a potential conduit for money laundering.
The company's website claimed: 'In the past five years, a balanced fine wine collection portfolio has shown returns of 166%'. The court heard that no data backed this claim.
Potential investors were cold called and told that the value of their wines would increase dramatically within a year. Some were quoted 15%, others a minimum of 20%. These figures were fictional and based on no data. Investors were told that their purchases of wine would be 'a short-term investment'.
Investors were misled by false portfolio reports, which showed that their wines had increased from between 3.2% to 5.4% in less than a month. These fictional reports were solely designed to persuade investors to purchase more wine. This practice was described as 'pernicious' Registrar Barber.
One investor purchased three cases of wine on 16th December 2013. They were sent the portfolio report on 6th January 2014, which showed healthy increases on all of their three wines. These increases were not based on any real data – instead were made up figures. Unfortunately the portfolio report achieved its purpose and the investor bought a further £10,000 worth of wine on 20th January 2014. At this time Glenn Barrington Ward was the sole director of the company.
The company was more than 'pernicious' when an elderly man with Alzheimer's was persuaded to buy non-existent 'shares' in Prestige Fine Wine Ltd paying out £150,000 for which he received absolutely nothing. He was told that he 'should hold these shares for as long as possible'. Records at Companies House show no increase in the company's share capital. I hope criminal charges are brought against those responsible for this unspeakably callous act.
Some £2 million passed through the company’s bank account. Of this £963,000 was identified by investigators as personal expenditure.