Wine Name:

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Nouveau World Wines Ltd: brief news update

The position as it stands today is that six people remain on police bail. They will return on bail in April 2012. No charging decision has yet been made.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Beaumont Vintners Ltd: proposal to strike off

Anyone contacted by wine investment company, Beaumont Vintners Ltd, should be aware that the company faces a proposed strike off for non-compliance as the annual return should have been filed on 16th July 2011. The strike off and dissolution of the company is in abeyance following an objection by a third party. 

Following a message from one of their customers, who had had difficulties contecting Beaumont, I phoned Beaumont and spoke to an unnamed 'senior broker', who became rude and agressive when I asked him about the proposed strike and asked to speak to Samuel Philips, the director. 

Beaumont Vintners Ltd store wines in  abonded warehouse at EWGA Ltd in Carnforth, Lancashire. EWGA have no connection with Beaumont Vintners Ltd, apart from offering storage facilities. Anyone with concerns about their wines should contact Simon Thompson at EWGA on 01524-737101. 

I would certainly not buy wine from Beaumont Vintners Ltd.

Response to my email message from Samuel Philips 
(This response was sent on Saturday 10th December 2011. Unfortunately due to the volume of emails I receive I didn't find it until 13th December. My apologies.

The annual return has now been filed with Companies House.)  

Dear Mr Budd

Further to your e-mail below,  I have taken your notes on board.  The problem has now been rectified and will be altered with companies house within 48 hours. The annual return has now been submitted.  All of our clients are welcome to contact EWGA at any time to verify the safe haven of their wine.

If there is anything else I can help you with please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Kind regards

Samuel Phillips
Beaumont Vintners Ltd
54 Fulham High Street
Tel: 0203 130 0314

21st January 2012
The proposal to strike off has been withdrawn. However, I'm still receiving messages from the clients who are having problems contacting the company. 

Monday, 28 November 2011

Seale Wines Ltd: message from Official Receiver

'I can confirm that on 23 November 2011 a winding up Order was made against Seale Wines Ltd (“the company”) on the petition of the Secretary of State, on public interest grounds.  On the making of the winding up Order the Official Receiver was appointed as liquidator of the company.   On the making of a winding up order the Official Receiver has a duty to investigate the cause(s) of failure and generally, the promotion, formation, business, dealings and affairs of the company, pursuant to section 132 of the Insolvency Act 1986.  As liquidator of the company the Official Receiver has a duty to realise any assets or property of the company for the benefit of its creditors.  Furthermore, in the event of any misconduct having taken place in the company the Official Receiver has the power to apply to court for the disqualification of anyone that may have acted as a director of the company, pursuant to section 6 of the Company Directors Disqualification Act 1986.

Anyone that is owed money by the company should send me an email with the following information:

Your full name;
You full postal address;
Details of much you are owed;
Details of your what your purchase/investment was for;
Any other information you feel may be of assistance.

Once I have your details you will be added to the list of creditors in the liquidation proceedings and as such you will be sent a copy of the Official Receiver’s Report to Creditors within the next 8 weeks, by which time I hope to have gathered some more information and also interviewed Mr Seale.

Kind regards

Matthew Stone
Senior Examiner

The Official Receiver's Office | Public Interest Unit
21 Bloomsbury Street | London | WC1B 3SS
DX 120875 Bloomsbury 6

T: +44 (0)20 7637 6417 | F: +44 (0)20 7637 6390
E: |'

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Clampdown on land bankers

Reports here of various arrests, complusory liquidators and voluntary liquidators amongst land banking companies largely based in the Bromley and North Kent area. Frequently there are links between land banking companies and those offering wine investments.

Report here in the Financial Times on 16th November 2011 on arrests made by the FSA, although no charges as yet.

Series of reports here from The Mirror includes reports on arrests by the FSA, the collapse of Countrywide Land Holdings into voluntary liquidation, the complusory liquidation of Regency Land and the apparent flight of a director to Northern Cyprus. 

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Eighteen55 Clarets still trading?

I have been contacted by several clients of Eighteen55 Clarets Ltd who have been unable to contact the company. I have had no success either. The company was founded on 23rd June 2008 and is currently registered at 55 Denmark Hill, Camberwell, London SE5 8RS. In its short life proceedings by Companies House to strike off and dissolved the company have been started and suspended twice. Until 29th August 2011 Altaur Rahman was the director. On the 29th he resigned and was replaced by Stephen Paul Bradshaw.  

I would be grateful if Mr Bradshaw would let me know what is the current possition, so that I can inform his concerned clients.

See previous post on this company here.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Vin Bordelais Ltd – one to avoid

 Bordeaux UK Ltd
Vin Bordelais Ltd (7.11.2011) with logo and identical phone number

Yesterday I asked Ian Vanderhook about Vin Bordelais Ltd and its relationship with Bordeaux UK Ltd. Vanderhook maintains that Vin Bordelais Ltd is a separate company but that he has a 3/4 person office there in Reigate. He said Vin Bordelais Ltd's sole director – Lawrence Douglas Adams – wants to buy Bordeaux UK Ltd. A brief phone call with Lawrence Adams (Douglas Company Services Ltd and sole director of Vin Bordelais Ltd) this morning confirmed that some discussions had taken place.

As already noted in a previous post Vin Bordelais Ltd initially used on its website the logo of Bordeaux UK Ltd and its phone number. The logo has now been removed and the phone number changed on Vin Bordelais' site. investdrinks is also aware that staff who previously worked for Bordeaux UK Ltd are now contacting customers of Bordeaux UK on behalf of Vin Bordelais Ltd.

Anyone contacted by Vin Bordelais Ltd is strongly urged to have nothing to do with this company until it can properly established that it is not a phoenix version of Bordeaux UK Ltd – now in liquidation. 

Furthermore any company claiming that they can assist Bordeaux UK Ltd clients to sort out the mess created by the company going bust should be treated with great suspicion as the affairs of Bordeaux UK Ltd are now in the hands of the liquidator.   

 Vin Bordelais Ltd – amended version 12.11.2011 – logo removed and phone number changed

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Bordeaux UK Ltd – officially bust – deficit nears £4 million

Marriott Hotel, Bexleyheath

Following a meeting today of the sole director and the sole shareholder (Ian Vanderhook/ Ian Van Der Hook in both instances), Bordeaux UK Ltd (founded in 2002) was placed in voluntary liquidation. The creditors' meeting, held at the Marriott Hotel shortly afterwards, approved the appointment of Nedim Ailyan (Abbott Fielding Ltd) as the liquidator.

Papers presented at the meeting showed that contrary to Ailyan's earlier optimism that the deficit might be less than £250,000, the actual deficiency is currently £3.780 million* (£3,780,112.49p to be exact). There are £3.1 in assets including £67,000 in the bank and the rest is stock. There are around 360 creditors – almost all of them private investors for sums ranging up to £559,000. The only wine trade creditors appear to be Ditton Wine Merchants in for £55,000 and Wine networks for £10,000.

For a number of reasons it is very likely that the deficiency will rise. Firstly Bordeaux UK has not submitted a tax return to HM Revenue & Customs since their 2007 return, so there is likely to be more corporation tax and PAYE to be paid adding to the £63,720 already owned to HMRC. Ailyan said that he was not satisfied that the company database was accurate. It was clear from the meeting that a number of creditors thought they were owed substantially more than was listed on the creditors schedule. There are also some 32 creditors who have zero against their name because what they are owed has not yet been established.

There is also some dispute over the value of the wine in the Bordeaux UK account at Octavian Vaults. The company estimates this to be between £700,000 and £800,000, while Octavian's value (cost price) is £289,101.

Ailyan suggested that on the current figures creditors may get back 47/48p in the £1. This will obviously depend upon what the deficiency is once all the figures are in and the costs associated with the liquidation. My guess after yesterday's meeting is that the payout may well be lower.

I was at the meeting representing HG, who had bought 5 cases of 2009 Château Mouton-Rothschild on 8th February 2010 for £10,000 a case totalling £50,000. I asked Ian Vanderhook (for the sake of simplicity I'll use this version of his name) how he was able to sell 2009 Mouton in February 2010 well before the château had released its price for the 2009 and how many cases it was putting on the market. In response to my question asking him when the price of the 2009 Mouton was released, Vanderhook blustered that the date varied from year to year.  He also claimed that the merchants and brokers with whom he dealt would have given him the price. This would appear to be highly unlikely as they would neither know the price nor the size of their 2009 allocation – a vintage that was obviously going to be in great demand. 

The price release date does vary for the First Growths but only between May and June, even possibly early July but most normally some time in June in the year following the vintage. The price is certainly never released in early February, which is a good six weeks before the wine world descends on Bordeaux to taste the latest vintage after which the en primeur campaign gradually cranks into action. It normally takes until late June before the prices of the top wines, like Mouton, are released.  The end of March/beginning April 2012 will see the 2011 tasted.

In the 'company history' presented to the meeting Vanderhook stated: 'The Company was set up by Mr Ian Vanderhook, who remains the sole director of the Company, in order to take advantage of his experience gained working for a company that specialised in the sale of fine wine.'
Despite this claim of 'experience' Vanderhook made it clear from this and other responses during the meeting that his understanding of how the fine wine market works appears to be still sketchy even after running a 'wine investment' company for the last nine years. Perhaps hardly surprising as Vanderhook admitted that 'his experience' came from working a maximum of two weeks for James Hewitt Associates Ltd, which was closed in the public interest on 12th September 2002 following a petition by the DTI. Bordeaux UK Ltd was fired up a week later on 19th September 2002 with 23-year-old Vanderhook as the sole director. Prior to his brief stint at James Hewitt Associates, Vanderhook told the meeting he was a lift engineer.

Vanderhook (VK) was asked whether Andrew Dunne, who effectively ran Ransby Hoare Ltd, Liquid Acquisitons Ltd and James Hewitt Associates Ltd - all closed in the public interest, had had any involvement in Bordeaux UK Ltd. VK said that Dunne had been involved in some staff training but was unsure when this was – 'might have been two or four years ago'. I asked VK whether he had met Dunne, while he was at James Hewitt Associates Ltd. "No," was VK's response as it was to my question whether the James Hewitt Associate's database has been transferred to Bordeaux UK Ltd.

VK insisted that Bordeaux UK Ltd had been set up properly with the assistance of his father, I understand is a policeman. Given VK's very limited experience in 2002 and continuing lack of knowledge about the fine wine market combined with his admitted weakness in administering a company, this all seems a decidedly unlikely scenario. More plausible is that Andrew Dunne chose VK as the next young man to follow on from 23-year-old James Hewitt.

A creditors' committee was formed at the end of the meeting. It includes someone from HMRC specialist investigations, which should ensure that the right questions are asked whether they will be to the liking of Ian Vanderhook remains to be seen.

Ailyan stressed on several occasions that both the FSA and Scotland Yard were investigating some other failed wine investment companies, although to date Bordeaux UK Ltd is not one of these.

* 18.11.2011. Please note that these figures (assets, deficiency etc.) are calculated from information supplied by Ian Vanderhook. Now that the liquidator has been appointed these figures will be investigated. It is not clear, for instance, whether the stock listed with a book value of £3,039,101 is calculated from the cost price value provided by Octavian Vaults or from a separate valuation.

 22.11.2011: I have been informed by Nedim Ailyan that the value of the stock at Octavian is based on Vanderhook's valuation. This stock is due to be valued this week but given "the paucity of information" provided by Vanderhook to the liquidator it would seem all to likely that the stock in Octavian is worth less than the 'book value' of £700,000-£800,000 given to the meeting. The rest of the £3,039,101 is made up of 2009 (£2 million) and 2010 (£250,000) Bordeaux en primeur orders placed with UK wine brokers/merchants. 

Furthermore Ailyan believes that the tax bill will rise very substantially once HMRC completes it investigation into the tax affairs of Bordeaux UK Ltd and Vanderhook. Listed at £63,720 it may rise to £500,000 and even over £1 million if HMRC applies penalties, although apparently in cases where members of the public are involved HMRC may well be waived.                                

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Vin Bordelais Ltd – changes logo and phone but has it changed its spots?

Vin Bordelais Ltd: website as of Tuesday 8th November 2011

Compare and contrast:
On Tuesday I posted about the Bordeaux UK trio – the three interlinked companies. Anyone visiting the Vin Bordelais site will find that there have been a few rapid changes: the logo, which was identical to that of Bordeaux UK has gone, and the phone number has changed from 0800-085448 (same as Bordeaux UK Ltd) to 01737-735290. '01737' is the area code for Reigate and Castle Court, 41 London Road, Reigate. This is a Regus serviced office building. 
Despite these cosmetic changes, this is surely a wine investment company to avoid.  

Vin Bordelais Ltd: website as of Saturday 12th November 2011

Friday, 11 November 2011

Blue Chip Fine Wines (Axetrader Ltd) dissolved

Following the news that Bordeaux UK is going into voluntary liquidation, there is news that another wine investment company, Blue Chip Fine Wines (the trading name of Axetrader Ltd) has been dissolved. A first gazette was issued in early August 2011 and the company has now been struck off and dissolved. It  was struck off for non-compliance – failure to file the annual return which was due on 29th April 2011.  Axetrader's director was Dhugal Robertson of Sevenoaks, Kent, who set up Axetrader Ltd was working for European Fine Wines, which is based in Bromley.

I have been contacted by one client of the company, who has been waiting for several months for his wine to be transferred into his account at Locke-King Vaults (part of EHD Bond). Apart from providing secure storage under bond EHD has no connection with Axetrader. At present it not known whether the non-appearance of this customer's wine is an isolated example or whether there are other clients of Blue Chip Fine Wines who have not received their wines. Earlier on this year it took several months to transfer a case of Lafite-Rothschild into a customer's account.     

WSTA (Wine & Spirit Trade Association) launches wine investment guide

WSTA launches new wine investment guide 
The WSTA has launched a guide to help the growing number of consumers who are investing in fine wine, either as collectors or as part of an investment portfolio.  The guide aims to help wine buyers make the right checks before they part with their money.

Recent years have seen a growth in fine wine purchase but the potentially attractive returns have also sadly attracted some fraudsters, particularly in relation to en primeur - wines available for purchase prior to bottling and release onto the market.

The WSTA guide, available online at, provides tips to help consumers ensure they don't become victims of fraud.  They include:

"    Choose a reputable wine merchant, checking their trading history, track record and address
"    Verify your order by comparing prices, checking provenance, condition of storage, packaging and delivery. Remember, reliable en primeur traders don't sell before producers have announced their prices
"    Look after your investment, ensuring wine is securely stored in the right conditions and fully covered by insurance
"    Understand the small print, including tax on investment, commission and handling fees and the paperwork you'll receive covering your purchase

The WSTA cautions consumers to be wary of any businesses using hard-sell tactics such as offering guaranteed profits or fast returns.  Fine wine should be seen as a medium to long term investment and as with all investments the value can go down as well as up.

Anyone who thinks they may have been a victim of fraud when buying fine wine should contact the WSTA Fraud Prevention Unit or report it to Action Fraud

WSTA Chief Executive Jeremy Beadles said:

"Buying fine wine is a pleasure and can be a profitable one but as with any type of investment it makes sense to take some precautions before you part with your cash.

"Our website guide provides some simple tips to follow to ensure you don't get caught out. Making some basic checks about the company you're dealing with and its track record is a good place to start."

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Bordeaux UK Ltd: curioser & curioser – a tale of three companies

This morning when I posted the news that Bordeaux UK Ltd had gone into liquidation it all looked relatively straightforward. However, during the day complications have emerged: there are three companies involved not just one. 

These are: Bordeaux UK Ltd, NS & IV Ltd and Vin Bordelais Ltd

Bordeaux UK Ltd (2002 version) – Companies House record

Bordeaux UK Ltd (company number – 04540202) founded on 19th September 2002. Registered office: Crown House, 72 Hammersmith Road, Hammersmith, London W14 8TH. 32-year-old Ian Van Der Hook is the director.

This is the original company and the one that has been placed in voluntary liquidation. On the 7th October the company changed its name to NS & IV Ltd and then on 26th October changed it back to Bordeaux UK Ltd. 

Although the total deficiency is not known, it is already clear that a number of clients placed orders for en primeur Bordeaux from the 2009 and 2010 vintages. The wine trade will start to ship the 2009s from the end of this year with the majority being delivered in the first half of 2012.  

Having spoken this afternoon to the liquidator, Nedim Ailyan (Abbott Fielding), the news on the en primeurs appears to be rather more postive than initially feared. Ailyan has been in contact with Octavian Vaults as well a merchants and brokers such as Farr Vintners, Wilkinson and Bordeaux Index and from replies so far received it appears that Bordeaux UK did place en primeur orders and had made payments. One unnamed broking company told him that of £135,000 ordered payments totalling £120,000. However, Octavian Vaults have been swamped with phone calls over the last two days, while Ailyan has taken over 100 calls. It is likely to take some time before it can be fully established whether what clients ordered to matches the orders placed by Bordeaux UK Ltd.  

Regarding the estimated deficiency Ailyan believes that this may be less than £250,000 but obviously this could change once all the figures are in. "We were approached some six or eight weeks ago when initially the idea was to go for a solvent liquidation (Members' Voluntary Liquidation) but the continuing fall in the value of top wines made the company insolvent on paper."   

NS & IV Ltd

NS & IV Ltd (co number: 07496940)
Company founded on 18th January 2011 with the same registered office address as Bordeaux UK Ltd – Crown House, 72 Hammersmith Road, London W14 8TH – a Regus serviced office. On 7th October 2011 the company's name was changed from NS & IV Ltd to Bordeaux UK Ltd. The name was changed back to NS & IV Ltd on 26th October 2011. Ian Van Der Hook is also director of this company.

Vin Bordelais Ltd

Vin Bordelais Ltd (company number: 07620869)
Company founded on 4th May 2011 with a registered office at 44a The Green, Warlingham, Surrey CR6 9NA. This address is one made available to companies as a registered office made available to companies by the Registered Office Service based at Regent House, 316 Beulah Hill, London SE19 3HF. Laurence Douglas Adams is the sole director of this company. He holds 3301 directorships. Vin Bordelais Ltd has an account at Octavian Vaults. Vin Bordelais Ltd's trading address is Castle Court, 41 London Road, Reigate RH2 9RJ.

It is instructive to compare the websites of Bordeaux UK Ltd and Vin Bordelais Ltd. It is noticeable that the logo is identical as is the telephone number – 0800-0854468.  

Staff, who previously worked for Bordeaux UK Ltd, have contacted Octavian Vaults on behalf of Vin Bordelais Ltd saying that they have an interest in acquiring the stock held in the name of Bordeaux UK Ltd. Once appointed it will be one of the tasks of the liquidator to either dispose of the Bordeaux UK stock or allocate where title can be established to customers of Bordeaux UK Ltd.  

Bordeaux UK Ltd website: front page (above)

Bordeaux UK Ltd: 'about us' page

Vin Bordelais Ltd: web page – same logo and phone number as Bordeaux UK Ltd

Updated@16.30 8.11.11.


Monday, 7 November 2011

Bordeaux UK placed in voluntary liquidation


Bordeaux UK have placed themselves in Voluntary Liquidation and have not filed accounts are about to be struck off. The company was founded on 19th September 2002. Accounts are overdue since 30.6.2011 and the annual return since 17.10.2011. Companies House issued the first gazette on 4th October 2011. The company changed its name to NS & IV Ltd on 7th October 2011. Ian Paul Van Der Hook is the company's director.   

The proposed administrators are Abbott Fielding in Sidcup:
16 Hatherley Road
DA14 4BG.
Contact: Nedim Ailyan (insolvency practitioner)
Telephone: 020-8302 4344

The meeting to appoint the administrators will be on 16th November at the Marriott Hotel in Bexleyheath, Kent at 11am.

Bordeaux UK used Octavian Vaults, one of the UK's leading bonded warehouses and entirely independent of Bordeaux UK Ltd. Octavian has been advised to refer callers to Abboot Fielding.

It is not known what the deficiency is nor whether they are wines that haven't been delivered to clients' private. If there are wines outstanding these are likely to include Bordeaux en primeur particularly from the 2009 vintage – hailed as a great vintage. In addition private clients may find that they will have to pay for their storage at Octavian even though they may have been told that Bordeaux UK Ltd would be paying for the first five years.    

Warning to clients of Bordeaux UK Ltd 
Watch out for the White Knights – other wine investment companies phoning you offering to help you out – get your wine or money back. Avoid at all costs – this is a classic wallet-thinning operation. 

My thanks to anon for alerting me to this.

More details will be posted if and when I have them.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Moncharm Ltd: money hungry young fine wine brokers wanted

Brokers Wanted for The Fine Wine Market

Job ID: 48649
Job Views: 1234
Location: Bromley,*
United Kingdom
Zip / Post Code:
Job Category: Alternative
Role: Broking
Employment Type: Full-time
Salary: incl Commission: £50,000.00 per year
Posted: 25/10/2011

Job Description
The Fine Wine Market
The Safe Haven for 2011

Do you enjoy the finer things in life?
Are you money hungry?

Then look no further.

We're an established Fine Wine Brokerage that are looking for money hungry young individuals that are willing to learn and be apart of a successful company.

We will provide full in-house training on the product and in sales.
All we asked for is for you to be energetic, enthusiastic and hungry for the finer things. You do not need to know the ins and outs of the Fine Wine Market. (Bold added.)

Please Contact Guy on 020-7959-2261 for an interview or altenatively please send your CV to

Moncharm Ltd
68 King William Street
(United Kingdom)

Phone: 0207 959 2261

Language:  English
Fluency:  Fluent

 * Job is in Bromley but firm's address is at 68 King William Street, London EC4N 7DZ  – a serviced office block.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Wine fraud on the rise in Hong Kong

Article from The Drinks Business:

Hong Kong’s booming wine sector has led to a surge in illegal wine activities, from wine theft to investment frauds, writes Jessica Lam Hill Young.

Local media recently reported the largest wine fraud scheme in Hong Kong this June, involving a wine broker company called Premium Liquid Assets, which swindled over 400 people out of HKD$50 million by advertising a 10-30% investment return on en primeur wine. 

Click on Drink Business above to read the rest. 

See also earlier post on investdrinks here.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Sentences in bio-diesel investment fraud total almost forty years

Not wine investment but an example of a boiler room fraud using cold calling and high pressure sales techniques. 

4 October 2011

Seven men, who collaborated in a Spanish based boiler- room operation, were sentenced at Ipswich Crown Court today to a total of 39 and a half years’ imprisonment for conducting an £8 million investment fraud.    Following a trial, six defendants were convicted by the jury on the 12 September.  Another pleaded guilty on 6 June at the start of the trial. 

This case involved the selling of shares in bio-diesel company Worldwide Bio Refineries Ltd (WBR).  Further background on the case was available in the conviction press release issued on the 12th September.

SFO reaction
Commenting on the convictions SFO Director Richard Alderman said, “I am very pleased with the sentences in this case which reflect the callous way the criminals preyed on their victims.”

Dennis Potter of Singapore (DOB 02/04/39) and Redmond “Ray” Charles Johnson of Tyne and Wear (DOB 19/09/44) were the directors of WBR.

  • Potter was sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment.
  • Johnson who pleaded guilty under a SOCPA arrangement, (see note 3 for details) was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment.

In addition, Potter and Johnson were disqualified from acting as company directors for 12 years,’’

The remaining five defendants were boiler room operatives and their sentences were as follow:

From Marbella :-
  • Steven John Murphy (DOB 13/02/76) was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment. 
  • Greg Pearson (DOB 26/08/73) was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment.

From Hertfordshire:-
  • Paul Daniel Murphy (DOB 28/09/73) was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment.
  • Lee Eliot Homan (DOB 02/07/72) was sentenced to five years’’ and six months imprisonment.

From London :-
  • Peter Bibby (DOB 01/09/67) of south London absconded and was tried and sentenced in absentia to six years’’ imprisonment. There is a court issued warrant for his arrest.

All of the five boiler room operatives were also disqualified from being company directors for six years.

In passing sentence, HHJ Overbury said of the fraud “This was a well planned, sophisticated, and well executed fraud dressed up in the language of legitimate business.  It involved deliberate targeting of a particular group of investors.  The Directors actions amount to a breach of trust of the investors.  They had a long lasting effect on the victims who lost their savings.”

On the prosecution case, the judge said, “This was a complex investigation carried out with the utmost professionalism by the SRB [case team] SFO and the Norfolk and Suffolk Constabulary.  All those involved in the investigation are to be commended for their hard work and professionalism.”

This case was prosecuted by the Serious Fraud office in conjunction with Norfolk and Suffolk Constabularies.  Confiscation proceedings will take place at court on a date to be fixed.

Notes for editors:

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Fine wine prices falter in August

Start of a trend or a temporary blip? This is the first significant downturn since the latest steady growth curve started in January 2009.

From the  Liv-ex blog:

'Lafite: The force behind last month's losses
The Liv-ex Fine Wine 100 Index lost four per cent in August - its third-most dramatic monthly fall since its inception in 2001. Though the majority of index constituents performed poorly - most notably the First Growths - the real millstone was Lafite Rothschild.

Read the rest of the post here.

See also brief article in the FT 

Some analysis in Harpers here.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Cold calls: excellent advice from Tony Levene (

'Never, never, ever respond to anyone who phones you with an investment proposition of any sort.

It does not matter what they say! Real financial advisers do not and are not allowed to do this.

Now, if everyone were to remember that, then no one would lose a penny to fraudsters like the Wilmots.'

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) 

The trials
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.