Wine Name:

Monday, 27 June 2011

Wine Investment Code – guide to best practice

Very useful meeting at the WSTA (Wine & Spirit Trade Association) offices this morning to discuss the proposed 'code'.
It was agreed that as the code is now designed to provide guidance on both best practice and what to avoid that it will become a guide to wine investment – on how companies should treat investors both potential and actual. 

The next step is that the WSTA will redraft it as guidance and then it will go out for comment – a process that I hope will not take long. 

Sunday, 26 June 2011

CBV Vintners: 2010 Lafite offered before release

The ability to look into the future is a most useful skill as this email (15th June 2010) from Stephen Miles of CB Vintners shows. 11 days after Stephen Miles sent his email (26th June 2011) Lafite has yet to release its price for the 2010. It is also not know how much will be released.

If I was the recipient of this email I would decline Mr Miles' kind proposal despite his apparent ability to purchase 'the best and most sought after stock'.  

From: Stephen Miles
To: ***
Sent: Wed, June 15, 2011 5:13:55 PM
Subject: Your request for further information on fine wine investment

Dear •••

I hope that you are keeping well.

You recently requested some information on wine investment opportunities. Please see below our latest offer.

The 2010 Bordeaux vintage is in the process of being released at the en-primeur stage. The 2010 vintage is set to be one of the top 5 vintages of all time. The demands from all over the world and especially China are far exceeding the supply. In the last couple of years we have seen astronomical returns in a short period of time. In fact as an example from the spring of 2009 to date Lafite Rothschild 2008 has increased by 700%...I know amazing. The Chinese cannot get enough of this wine. As I have been operating within the market place now for 15 years, I am in a favourable position when it comes to purchasing the best and most sought after stock.

At this stage, I would like to offer you the opportunity to purchase up to 3 cases of the superb 2010 Lafite Rothschild. The price of each case will be £12,500. I believe that this wine – the most sought after wine in the world has the capability to double in value over the next year to 18 months if we observe the performance of previous vintage

I would recommend that you take advantage of the proposal that I am offering you.

I look forward to any questions that you may have. Please email me.

Kind Regards


Saturday, 25 June 2011

Robin Grove (Vintage Hallmark) fraud trial@Harrow

Robin Grove, a director of Vintage Hallmark Ltd, is currently on trial at Harrow Crown Court in North London on 5 counts: two counts of conspiracy to defraud, two counts of fraudulent trading and one of concealing material facts. The charges relate to Vintage Hallmark Ltd, Vintage Hallmark plc and to The Hallmark Partnership.

Vintage Hallmark Ltd sold alcoholic drinks (wines and spirits) as investments to American investors (mainly in the medical profession). Later they were induced to swop their 'investments' for shares in Vintage Hallmark plc, which went bust on 22nd January 2003 owing just short of £80m (US$128m – $158 million at the time). 
The case has been brought by the Serious Fraud Office. The trial started on 31st May and is expected to conclude in early July.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Harassment, privacy, press freedom and Stephen Cleeve

Last Friday Ian Puddick was cleared at Westminster Crown Court of harassment. Puddick (what a wonderfully English name!) had publicised his wife’s affair with her millionaire boss, Timothy Haynes, on the net using a cocktail of blogs, twitter, facebook etc.  It was reported that the judge ruled Puddick's actions did not form a "course of conduct" and dismissed the charges. 

This case follows on from several weeks of high excitement in the British press over injunctions and superinjunctions gagging the press from reporting on football stars, who have been playing away from home with a bevy of usually generously structured starlets, as well as the head of one of the UK’s biggest bank, who had an affair with a colleague while the bank went into meltdown in 2008. A so-called superinjunction is so secret that there is a ban on even reporting on its existence. I have little doubt that these superinjunctions were first devised by F. Kafka.

Puddick’s case, which will have helped to define the limits of the 1997  Harrassment Act had a particular resonance with me as back in March of this year I received threats from a firm of media lawyers that if I continued to cover the activities of their client, Stephen James Cleeve I was likely to find myself before the High Court for harassment.

I have been writing about/ covering the activities of Mr Cleeve since 1996. Over the years he has sold a succession of dead duck investments starting with barrels of whisky, followed by Champagne for the great millennium party and then it was onto plots of agricultural land that would magically be transformed into goldmines once they were given planning permission. Cleeve’s Champagne offer was partnered by the most hopeless of all drinks investments ever – pipes of ruby Port (the basic sort) – that he sold through his company Forrester & Lamego Ltd until it was closed in the public interest and Cleeve was banned from being a director from 2000 to 2008.

I still have a copy of promotional video put together by Cleeve and his associates for his land-banking venture – European Land Sales. Provided you were not one of the unfortunates that were persuaded to pay over the odds for plots of land that are all too likely to remain worthless, the video is hilarious. My favourite section is Cleeve talking about what happens if ELS doesn’t get planning permission. “This is a situation where you have to look at our track record,” he explains. “Our track record shows that we do get planning in most of our cases. And, also if we have done our due diligence properly it is something that just does not occur.”

Cleeve was right to say “just does not occur” – in the sense that at the time the video was made ELS had not just never got planning permission for one of their agricultural sites, they had never even submitted one planning application.  Just another of the lies Cleeve confessed to telling in an March 2011 interview with the Herald Sun: "No, no religion at all. To tell you the truth I just got sick of lying, and I had enough. I've gone straight." (

In March 2010 in the lead up to the May 2010 UK General Election Cleeve was chosen as the UKIP’s (UK Independence Party) candidate to fight the Kensington seat in west London. His candidature was short lived as he stood down by the end of March once details of his colourful career emerged.

Most recently Cleeve, a long-time football fan, has been trying to buy Wrexham Football Club. It was a post on my investdrinks blog in February that triggered a letter (3.3.11) from Cleeve’s solicitors’ PSB Law (

They claimed that my ‘recent and ongoing coverage amounts to a possible invasion of privacy and/or possible actionable harassment, in that it would be said to be a course of conduct causing unwarranted distress.

‘For this reason we must request your formal undertaking to cease and desist such coverage of Mr Cleeve’s activities, save to the extent that they concern (as they do not, have not since 1997, nor are expected to be in the future) current activity within the wine and spirits investment sector. We request that undertaking within 14 days. Furthermore we request that you remove the articles and publications, whether or not referred to above, concerning Mr Cleeve, save where they concern current activity within the wine and spirits investment sector. If this is not forthcoming, then proceedings may be commenced in the High Court without further notice to you.’

My response to PSB (14th March 2011):

‘Response to your letters of 3rd and 8th March 2011

There has been no harassment of Stephen Cleeve. I refer you to the Court of Appeal - Iqbal v Dean Manson [2011] EWCA Civ 123 Section 34 paras 32-35 on page 12 of the judgment.

Your claim that I may have invaded Mr Cleeve’s privacy is absurd. I have not intruded into Mr Cleeve’s private life and never made any comment on his private life, which I have no knowledge of or interest in. I have only ever covered your client’s business activities and his public life, for instance as a UKIP parliamentary candidate and, more recently, as a prospective purchaser of Wrexham Football Club.

This grotesque attempt at gagging is an attack on my freedom of expression and contravenes my rights as enshrined in the 1998 Human Rights Act. 

The information contained in my posts on Stephen Cleeve’s brief tenure as UKIP’s parliamentary candidate for Kensington at the 2010 General Election is all in the public domain and my comments are fair, reasonable and in the public interest. I note that you have made no complaint over the accuracy of these posts. Nevertheless I reiterate my invitation of 4th March 2011 to let me know if there are any inaccuracies in them.’

Returning to the Puddick case there are three crucial paragraphs in the Court of Appeal judgment (Iqbal v Dean Manson ) above that supports press freedom:

[33] Prior to the 1997 Act, the freedom with which the press could publish facts or opinions about individuals was circumscribed by the law of defamation. Protection of reputation is a legitimate reason to restrict freedom of expression. Subject to the law of defamation, the press was entitled to publish an article, or series of articles, about an individual, notwithstanding that it could be foreseen that such conduct was likely to cause distress to the subject of the article.

[34] The 1997 Act has not rendered such conduct unlawful. In general, press criticism, even if robust, does not constitute unreasonable conduct and does not fall within the natural meaning of harassment. A pleading, which does no more than allege that the defendant has published a series of articles that have reasonably caused distress to an individual, will be susceptible to a strike-out on the ground that it discloses no arguable case of harassment.

[35] It is common ground between the parties to this appeal, and properly so, that before press publications are capable of constituting harassment, they must be attended by some exceptional circumstance which justifies sanctions and the restriction on the freedom of expression that they involve. It is also common ground that such circumstances will be rare.’

It would seem likely that this judgment will have informed the decision in the Puddick case. If the 1997 Protection from Harassment Act could be used to limit press freedom as demanded by Cleeve’s lawyers, then it would make investigative journalism in the UK even more difficult given our already fierce libel laws and the apparent ease that superinjunctions are granted by the courts.
Now that he has turned over a new leaf and ‘gone straight’ Stephen Cleeve has said that he is repaying  At the end of March 2011 I addressed some questions to Cleeve through his lawyers. To date I have had no response to the following:

a) Did any of the sites promoted by European Land Sales (ELS) and Commercial Land ever get planning permission for building development? If so which sites were these? 

b) Are there any sites where ELS/Commercial Land have to date not submitted any planning applications?

c) Has Stephen Cleeve ever managed any successful property development?

d) In an interview with Red Passion (12th March)  Stephen Cleeve explains that he “I am donating all of my retained land into a hardship fund to be used to help any investor who loses money from any of their dealings with me.” Does this fund have a name? Has it paid out any money to date? How much money does he estimate investors have lost through ELS and Commercial Land? How long will it take for these investors to be repaid?

Naturally I will publish any responses received to my questions from Stephen Cleeve or his lawyers. 

See also: This is money 24th April 2011

Update: 26th July 2013
Over two years have past since I replied to Stephen Cleeve's solicitors. To date I have received no response from them or their client either to my letter or my questions about Stephen Cleeve's land banking activities above.  



Monday, 20 June 2011

Fraud trial@St Albans Crown Court – Bordeaux Wine Trading Company

Château Lafite and other first growths: clients ordered, paid but company didn't place orders

Long day@St Albans Crown Court with three witnesses appearing on the third day of the trial of Paul Craven and Oseghale Hayble accused of fraudulent trading with respect to the Bordeaux Wine Trading Company. The crown prosecutor is Ann Evans, Samantha Cohen is defending Paul Craven and John Femi-Ola is the defence for Oseghale Hayble. His Honour Judge John Plumstead is hearing the case. 

Among those giving evidence today was Frederick Achom, who testified that he was the owner of the Bordeaux Wine Company. The trial started last Thursday.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Letter from Liquid Assets Ltd about Premium Liquid Assets

Letter of Declaration between Liquid Assets Ltd. and Premium Liquid Assets Ltd. 13 June, 2011
It has come to our attention that we, LIQUID ASSETS LIMITED, supplier of fine wines and beers from around the world, has been largely confused with the French wine wholesaler PREMIUM LIQUID ASSETS who are currently under investigation of a wine investment scam.
Please be duly informed that LIQUID ASSETS LIMITED does not offer any wine investment service and is not engaged in any such activities. LIQUID ASSETS LIMITED and PREMIUM LIQUID ASSETS are wholly separate business entities and are not in any way affiliated or undergoing any business collaboration.
Should you have any enquiries, please do not hesitate to contact us directly for verification and clarification.
Yours Faithfully,Liquid Assets Limited

(Liquid Assets Ltd is based in Hong Kong)


Report in Chinese on apparent problems with Premium Liquid Assets here.

A recent message about Worldwidewine Investments

From: AD

Dear  Jim,
Thank you for your reply.

Worldwide Wine Investments contacted me saying that in anticipation of 2010 release they were eager to clear final 2009 lots. These were Lafite Rothschild at GBP 14000 and Mouton Rothschild at GBP 6800.

The prices seemed good and I gave credit card details for the Mouton. However, alarm bells rang when they gave some reason for wanting a check rather than Credit Card. (Apparently they have such a high turnover that only a certain percentage can be Credit Card.)

I read your comments and stopped the Card payment and told them I was not happy and would not proceed. I did not mention your site but they immediately told me that you were the only negative publicity that they had ever receive. They named you and said that you were banned from all UK websites.

Yesterday I received another cold call from a company European Fine Wine. I will not deal with them but wonder where they all get my name from.


My earlier response to AD:

Thanks for your messages and my apologies for the slow reply. For the reasons given on my investdrinks blog I would not buy from this company. I would be interested to know what business they were proposing.

The prices for the 2009 Lafite and Mouton are certainly keen. wine-searcher shows that the Lafite is available from £13950 with most merchants listing it at £14,500 and above. The cheapest price for the Mouton is £7400 a case with most merchants listing it between £7500-£8000.

Worldwidewine Investments Ltd changed its name from Clearpoint Trading Ltd on 15th October 2010.  Given their short trading history as an wine investment company, I'm a little surprised that they have access to these two wines at such keen prices. The 2009 is still at the châteaux and not due to be delivered until the end of this year or early next year.

As for me being banned from all UK websites this is meaningless nonsense.

I welcome any comments from the directors of Worldwidewine Investments Ltd.  

Regarding other companies contacting AD it may be that they agreed for their name to be passed onto 3rd parties. If this was not the case the Data Protection Act may be being contravened here. 

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Patience please

Many thanks to those of you who have emailed me with enquiries and questions over the last ten days or so. I have been away and with little time to deal with these emails. I will now try to answer them as quickly as I can. However, my advice is that if you have the slightest doubt about a wine investment company or a proposed deal is either to decide not to go ahead or, at least, do plenty of research before proceeding.

Furthermore, I would never buy from a cold caller.