Montevino Mark 2
On 2nd May 2016 I posted – The Mysteries of Montevino Partners – on investdrinks covering the company's history to date and the then forthcoming fraud trial of Michael Moore. Although not a director Moore was a significant presence at Montevino as their senior wine advisor, although he did not feature on the Montevino Partners' website as one of their wine experts. There was no mention of Moore on the Montevino Partners' site.
Michael Moore – an update
Following a trial at Maidstone Crown Court that started in mid-November 2016, Michael Moore was found guilty of fraud on 8th December 2016. The verdict was unanimous. The fraud charges related to previous investment companies (not wine related) that Moore had been involved in. There were no charges involving Montevino Partners. On 19th January 2017 Moore was sentenced to seven years imprisonment.
Interestingly Thomas White claimed in an email to Action Fraud, following complaints from clients of Montevino Partners who have not received their wine, that he hadn't been aware until recently of the seriousness of the charges against Michael Moore. Their seriousness had recently 'popped up'....
Mr White appears to have an interesting take on the seriousness of a fraud charge.
There are a number of questions that need to be asked about Michael Moore's time at Montevino Partners. These include what exactly was his role and when did he cease to be involved, did he place orders for wine and did he liaise with bonded warehouses. Furthermore when did White become aware of the fraud charges against Moore and how and to what extent did White, as sole director, supervise Moore's work, especially given that Montevino was seeking to persuade clients to invest their money in wines proposed by the company. It appears that Michael Moore may well have made absurdly high profit claims along with the possibility that such profits could be realised in just six months.
The continuing history of Montevino Partners:
This should be read in conjunction with my earlier post on The Mysteries of Montevino Partners.
Following the compulsory winding up in London High Court of Spirited Ventures Ltd trading as Montevino Partners, a second company – Montevino Partners Ltd – took over the Montevino Partners' trading name.
Spirited Ventures Ltd (incorporated 19.7.2013) goes bust and is then wound up in the High Court.
On 26th July Spirited Ventures Ltd went into liquidation. Ninos Koumettou of Alexander Lawson Jacobs, Winchmore Hill, London N21 3NA was appointed director. In the statement of affairs Thomas White, as the sole director in place, listed the company's assets and debts as:
This is particularly curious as stocks of wine are listed as 'uncertain'. Furthermore a number of clients were owed substantial amounts of wine.
These included DL, a private client who had bought £44,292 worth of wine through Michel Moore which had not been delivered to the bonded warehouse, despite sending solicitor's letters to the company demanding delivery. White was certainly aware that DL had not received this wine as he responded to an email that DL sent to him on 15th March 2016:
Hello Mr L.
Thank you for your comments, sorry to hear you feel this way, And I assure you not our intention to provide our services this way. Just picked up your email, Please let me look into what has happened and why no progress has been made with your sale request.
Kind regards, Speak soon. Tom'
DL heard no more from White, so he is instructed his solicitors to write a Pre-action Protocol Letter of Claim to Thomas White. This letter that detailed the outstanding wines was sent – by email and by post – on 8th April 2016. Despite this solicitor's letter DL was not included as a creditor of Spirited Ventures Ltd in White's statement of affairs (26.7.2016).
Client AC was another. They had invested just over £100,000* – their entire life savings. There were also other private clients who had not received their wine.
(* 5.3.17: it appears that these wines were bought through Montevino Partners Ltd rather than Spirited Ventures Ltd. AC has yet to received their wines although these are understood to have been bought between March, May and June 2016. Some £76,000 of the £100K was apparently supposed to have been purchased in barrel from a Barolo producer – the client placed and paid for the order in June 2016. Unfortunately the producer concerned has confirmed that no such order was ever placed for this wine by Montevino Partners Ltd.
Because Thomas White did not list any private clients, those private clients, who were owed wine, were not informed of the creditors' meeting... There were only three creditors at the 26th July meeting – one of them being White due to his director's loan.
Why did White not list these clients as creditors of Spirited Ventures? It surely can't have slipped his mind! One has to suspect that either White knowingly made a false statement of affairs (26.7.2016) or he failed to ascertain the true number of creditors and the true level of debt before signing and submitting the statement of affairs.
I have asked White why wine not delivered to private clients of Montevino Partners was not included in the statement of affairs for Spirited Ventures Ltd. White has yet to provide any explanation.
It may well be that Thomas White, although the sole director after 28th May 2014, played a minor role in the first version of Montevino Partners.
I trust that the liquidator, Ninos Koumettou of Alexander Lawson Jacobs, once apprised that there were other creditors not listed on the statement of affairs, has demanded a full explanation from Thomas White.
At the meeting held on 26th July 2016 at the offices of Alexander Lawson Jacobs 'creditors were told that a company, Montevino Partners Ltd, a company also controlled by the director Mr Thomas White had expressed an interest in the miscellaneous equipment, website and goodwill of the company'.
Understandably HMRC were unhappy at being owed £155,000 and successfully petitioned in London's High Court to have the company wound up. The petition (presented 30.6.16) wasn't contested and the order to wind up was made on 15th August 2016.
The rise and apparent fall Montevino Partners Ltd
Montevino Partners Ltd was incorporated on 17th April 2014. The accounts to 30th April 2015 were for a dormant company with the first active accounts made up to 30th April 2016 when the company made a small loss of £6360.
What I wonder was the purpose of setting up Montevino Partners Ltd as a dormant company in April 2014. White told me in May 2016 that 'we bought Spirited Ventures Ltd' from Martin Edgerton Gill and John Jeffrey. Although Jeffrey was the original director when the company was set up in July 2013, the firm's capital was just £1. There is no evidence at Companies House of Gill ever being a director or shareholder of Spirited Ventures Ltd.
White became a director of Spirited Ventures Ltd on 19.5.2014 and Jeffrey resigned on 28.5.2014.
On 4th May 2016 I asked White where was the evidence that Gill was either a director of a shareholder of the company. I have yet to receive a response.
Montevino Partners Ltd seamlessly became Montevino Partners. The website, which was registered on 9th January 2014, remained largely the same. There was certainly no indication that the original company had gone into liquidation with debts probably well in excess of £800,000.
The MVP Wine Club – 'flying pig territory'
However, not to be downhearted Thomas White is now preparing a third version of Montevino Partners, although the name is 'open to discussion'. White has presented his 'Business Plan for the resurrection of of the fine wine platform' to private creditors of Montevino Partners Ltd inviting them to invest in the new venture as a way of getting their money back. A business proposal was sent out by Tom White at the beginning of February 2017 to a number but not all of the clients of Montevino Partners.
MVP Wine Club is intended to be a mix of wine events, wine retail, imports and to offer advice as well as a fine wine platform. There is mention of 'a collective wine portfolio' worth some £1.5 million.
Some private investor clients of Montevino Partners are sufficiently angry to have filed complaints with Action Fraud. Others, however, praise White for sticking around and attempting to find a solution to recoup the losses incurred through the first two companies that traded as Montevino Partners.
MVP is surely flying pig territory. There is nothing in Thomas White's history as a director to show that he is capable of running a successful company and with five company directorships he has had some practice....:
Spirited Ventures Ltd: bust and then wound up in London's High Court. White has claimed that it was Michael Moore's pending fraud trial that sunk the company and that previously Montevino Partners was ’a good firm early on and was doing some good stuff’ and 'Montevino's first 18 Months were very good'. This is not borne out by the sole set of accounts filed for Spirited Ventures Ltd. The accounts to 31.7.2014 showed a loss of £165,000 with £188,069 owed to yourself as a director’s loan. The accounts were filed in White's name.
Wine Genie Ltd: Dormant company – first accounts overdue since 9th January 2017
Influx Global Ltd: dissolved no accounts or annual returns filed.
Instead the troubled history of Monetvino Partners should be fully investigated by the Insolvency Service.
In particular why was the statement of affairs for Spirited Ventures Ltd signed off by Thomas White incomplete at best as no private creditors were listed and what happened to the money that investors paid to Montevino Partners but have received no wine.