Wine Name:

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

2014 Happy New Year + a couple of resolutions

Best wishes for a scam-free 2014. To help to keep it scam-free here are two resolutions for 2014:

Never accept cold calls

Ignore asset exchange schemes run by companies such as the recently formed Mayfair Worldwide Trading Ltd – formed in mid-August 2014 and already claims to be 'trusted worldwide'! Exchanging cases of Château Lafite, which should in time recover its value, for a risky investment such as graphene cannot be sensible. 

Sunday, 29 December 2013

The memoirs of a 'wine-broker': an insider tells his story

London's Canary Wharf becoming a favoured address for scams

(Although Daniel Smith, the author of this contribution, worked for a wine investment company, his experience could I believe be replicated in a number of other dubious investment companies. Their modus operandi is similar whether they happen to sell wine, biofuels, carbon credits, coloured diamonds, etc.

Smith provides a fascinating insight into this highly competitive, masculine world. It shows how important cold calling is to this style of investment scam and equally how important it is never to accept any investment offer proposed by a cold caller.

It is standard practice for these telesales ‘brokers’ to use false names.

Of course, the fact that Daniel Smith did not see any wine during his employment does not mean that no wine was bought. Wine for investment should be kept in a bonded warehouse, so you wouldn’t expect to see cases of wine in the company’s offices. It is, however, an illustration of how sketchy the training given by this style of company is that a wine broker thought it was strange to see no wine during his time at Snake Oil Investments Ltd.

Parts of South London, especially Bromley and Croydon, have unfortunately become a magnet for dubious investment companies. They also seem to be increasingly attracted to Canary Wharf – London’s alternative financial centre.)    

Daniel Smith:
First of all, I'd rather you didn't refer to me by name. The principal reason for this is that, far from just being a shady operation contractually and morally speaking, I also believe that Snake Oil Investments Ltd have genuine ‘muscle’ and could pose a criminal threat to anyone trying to denounce their activities. In any case I'm living in Peru now and it would be difficult for them to track me down.

When I first saw an advert to become a ‘wine broker’ on a recruitment website I was intrigued, because I have a degree, had previous sales experience and was attracted by the claim ‘earnings in excess of £80k/year’. After all, there's nothing wrong with being young and ambitious. They were accepting any candidates that were willing to show up to an open day.

I attended the interview day at Sofitel Gatwick Airport. This day was the recruitment process. It consisted of a man giving an introductory talk on the world of wine broking whereby he made clear that it was not a world to get into if you were interested in "knowing about wine and appreciating wine", it was more about trading the commodity of wine. My understanding prior to this, albeit limited, was that you accessed the world of brokering fine wines through exceptionally good knowledge of wines/estates/domains because fine wines are a rare form of diminishing asset. Snake Oil Investments Ltd put more emphasis on the investment potential of wine at this initial stage than the wine itself and where the return was actually coming from. Then they made us do exercises, which tested our confidence, speaking in front of a room full of strangers, selling things like ‘invisible paint’ and ‘calculators without buttons’. In hindsight, this should have been a sign. Honest selling relies on the benefit of a product or service to a company. These exercises had nothing to do with selling, they were to do with manipulation.

Halfway through a broker from the firm showed up and the number of applicants was dramatically pared down. We had a further talk, this time about the ‘hunger to succeed’ that is essential to all brokers. The latter part of the day, curiously, was about testing this hunger; what did we want to buy if we had £500k, how much money would we ideally make in a day, etc. Whilst it is important to be highly motivated financially in a high-pressure sales environment I should have been dubious as to whether this needed testing as rigorously as it did in the interview process. I now realise that it was because Snake Oil Investments Ltd (as well other wine brokerages, no doubt) wanted people who were financially motivated to the point of desperation, because these people were more likely to pick up the phone and sell.

Eventually I reached the end of the day and a number of us got an ‘offer’ from the broker that had showed up. He was looking for people to start (on an almost fortnightly basis) at their offices in Croydon. The advert had said ‘Canary Wharf’ which was right near where I lived at the time, so this came as a shock and disappointment. No contract was offered and no explanation given as to why the location was different from the one advertised. At this point I sensed something wasn't quite right. I learned much later from a recruiter that it was illegal to post false information in job adverts and to advertise jobs that didn't actually exist or that hadn't been signed off on a budgetary level.

I stayed in contact with the broker about the opportunity and went to see the offices in Croydon and meet him further. Quite out of the blue he announced that he had "something to clear up about the job" and launched into a defence of Snake Oil Investments Ltd, saying that "I may have heard a thing or two about the world of wine brokering and that's not at all the way we operate", etc. He made clear that what wine brokers were offering was essentially a financial service that was unregulated by the FSA because wine is a consumable good (which I'm not even sure is strictly true). He said he was still happy to take me on but again offered no contract. I was partially assuaged by his assurances that SOI were a reputable brokerage, but also intrigued by the alleged bad press on this industry.

Eventually, after not quite getting through some other interviews and badly needing the money, I put aside these concerns and decided to join Snake Oil Investments Ltd. I was in a desperate situation myself and, in any case, I had a passion for wine and wanted to get into trading it. I thereafter began a training period. Still no contract. In the training period I was told why this was. Their stance was that, because of the high earnings in that job they chose to work with ‘consultants’ who were ‘self-employed’ but received a monthly fee by cheque. This lowered their tax-bill. Tax evasion (? avoidance?) was never far from their thoughts, as you have blogged about yourself. Basically they paid their staff cash in hand, all 40 or so of them! The lack of contract allowed them to fire people at will and impose unfair holiday restrictions, i.e. once a year at Christmas (a fortnight). This seems unfair and most people would want out at this stage, but then they would invoke a notion of 'sacrifices must be made if you're to earn the big bucks'.

They also explained their methods of selling. The telesales pitch was given to us in script form, we were instructed to learn it and make it our own in whatever way we could. We were told that attitude counted for 60%, ability on the phone 30% and investment/product knowledge 10% – which was almost laughable. The main focus was on handling the objections of the customer and making us into ‘talented brokers’ the instructions being to ‘bang the phone’ Boiler Room style. They focused intensely on hard work, meritocracy and the ‘go-hard or go-home’ mentality. I had been through training for sales before – even telesales. Those sessions differed dramatically. At SOI there was no focus on how to develop a pipeline of business. This, we were told, was taken care of for us through a company from whom they purchased leads for us to call. Nothing was revealed about who this company was. I found it bizarre that the they didn't go into much more detail about the economics of wine trading but instead offered up that ‘the simpler we make it sound the more likely people were to invest’. In reality on the phone, the opposite very much seemed to be the case with people demanding an explanation as to how and why they were investing.

Other inspirational training techniques were ‘watch Glengarry Glen Ross or Boiler Room and see what you can pick up’ – honestly! We were brainwashed with motivational twoddle like: ‘Learn the three principals: 1. 'I have to earn it', 2. 'I am always responsible', 3. 'I always pay'’. The principal reason they had to go over things like this was because the majority of their workers had come from very poor backgrounds, had no qualifications and as such didn't have the kind of self discipline that comes from independent study (the cornerstone of the most companies' hiring criteria). The workers were however willing to work hard and driven financially.

Something I found very strange was that SOI encouraged us to take on a ‘persona’ (I would call it a false name). Their reasons for this were that you could have a lot of baggage to leave behind at home and having a persona encouraged you to become that successful persona you choose for yourself through hard work. I actually had done quite well for myself before I had gone there and I found this particularly insulting. Why would I not want to be me? Why should I do well under a different name, didn't I want people to know I had achieved good things? Obviously this was their linchpin: it made it immensely difficult to find out who was actually working at SOI especially since they had no contracts or no real names.

People stayed there because it was indeed possible to earn plenty of money, but the Snake Oil Investments Ltd commission scheme was far from fair: earn your own monthly fee in commission before you get a penny, gain five clients in a month for a 3k bonus... In truth there were some quite staggering incentives. So you would have a retainer of £1250/month plus the same amount in commission plus a bonus (you also got a Rolex or something similar for being one of the first three ‘employees’ to achieve this in any given month). However, telesales are far from easy when you're talking about thousands of pounds per sale and these targets were hard to achieve. Curiously if you didn't achieve them you were rarely fired. They obviously needed as many people as possible to man the phones and found it hard to employ people given the lack of a proper contract.

This pay structure achieved two things: people ringing absolutely anyone they could whenever they could in order to get the five client monthly target and an attitude among staff that no better opportunity could possibly exist for people of their means – after all what companies do you know giving out Rolexes on a monthly basis? This was underlined in training when they talked about the director Tito Pepe. We were told (I paraphrase):

‘Tito a great guy. He's rich and he just wants people around him to be rich. There's absolutely nothing to stop you from getting to where he is now if you work hard and apply yourself. It's hard to start off with but the longer you stay, the more clients you get and the more they add to their portfolios the more it all adds up and after year two things really get good.’

Tito would hold daily motivational talks urging people to push the billings. He seemed to do very little himself, often swanning off in his Lamborghini around 3pm. My overwhelming impression of him was that he was amusing bloke, clever, driven and ruthless. After his talks we would often role play our pitches in front of the room, practising the best way to handle objections (according to them this was to ignore it completely first time it came up, then rephrase it as a question in order to make the client say yes, then handle it somehow). 

The actual sales structure was what I found really odd and was my biggest clue that the whole organisation was one very elaborate and lucrative scam – at least if it wasn’t they ran the company in a very peculiar way. Essentially, the initial call to a prospect was placed by an ‘opener’ who was ringing to introduce the investment proposition and send over a company brochure. This was all an ‘opener’ did. The prospect then received a follow-up call from the ‘closer’ who got the prospect’s thoughts on the brochure (obviously the brochure exuded the image of an immensely reputable company) and closed the sale. The ‘closers’ got a lesser percentage of the original commission on that sale (they plucked the prices out of thin air, anyway) and more for any subsequent purchases from that client. Often clients would 'invest' about 5k initially to see if it was worth it, then add lots more once they had seen a good return. They always saw a good return, because the ‘closers’ no doubt lied through their teeth about not only what they had purchased for the client, but also the return it had made. Obviously the only career progression possible at SOI was from ‘opener’ to ‘closer’ where earnings could be up to £100k a month sometimes according to the board which showed what business we were doing (a simple whiteboard, wiped clean every day). I imagine Tito selected the closers personally. Were they privy to more intimate information about the company? Is that why they get such a better deal?

We worked from 1pm till 8pm and were constantly on the phone. At the end of the day a group of older employers would get into their various hyper cars and drive home. We were encouraged to buy expensive things, save nothing and keep our hunger alive – which I just thought needlessly frivolous. We were instructed to put pictures of material objects around our desks to reinforce this notion. 

Academic learning was almost actively discouraged. The only thing they wanted us to work on was our phone pitch and sales skills through listening to motivational speakers such as Brian Tracy. Any questions about the actual purchasing of the wine were ducked or handled with responses like ‘all the wine is kept in the London City Bond where the Queen keeps her wine’. I once asked one of the senior brokers to tell me more about the process. He looked away awkwardly and said that an opening account form for the LCB was posted out after clients had sent the cheque, they subsequently filled it in and sent it back to us and we allocated the wine to them in the bond through our account. Surely if nothing weird was going on at this firm they would have been more forthcoming with this, even clarifying it on day one.

SOI were also more than happy to lie on your behalf and say you were earning enormous sums in order to get a mortgage on a house or something similar, because this tied in with their philosophy of keeping the earnings high (also because it presumably kept people on their side). They presented themselves as the ideal employer. Tough but fair, generous but not a free ride. This allowed them to get away with forcing people to come in to work even if they felt sick on the pretence that if you looked sick then you would be sent home. Absences were not tolerated in any way. Ccuriously, though, the top earner disappeared for a week and came back after SOI had announced that he wouldn't – for some reason no one on the sales floor seemed to notice or care. Obviously the more money you brought in for them the more leniency you could afford. It made me wonder whether there was an inner circle of people who were in the know who genuinely made all the decisions and got a share of the profits of what I had come to see as an enormous Ponzi scheme. The high earnings then afforded them status at the firm, although obviously these were false.

Reading your blog about how much Tito drew through dividends really opened my eyes. He was preying not only on innocent investors, but also on his own staff. To make things worse some of these investors were pensioners and suchlike, it is true. Yet actually, the majority of people working at SOI had sufficient conscience to put notes on the system not to bother these people. I genuinely got the idea that the majority of them had been hoodwinked into working there because they had no better option. Some of them deserved better and were good sales people, who believed they were just doing well in an unregulated industry. The world of investment cold calling seems to be an intricate network of conmen; people use the same skills in carbon credit investment selling, land and precious stones as well. Tito Pepe even learned these skills from some other company where all the other dodgy brokers seem to have originated from. It’s just slightly disappointing for me as I genuinely have an interest in wine and would have quite liked to be a broker somewhere reputable such as Berry Brothers or Fine and Rare.

It's funny, they mentioned you when I was there! They were less than complimentary... But I have to say I think you're doing a great job, particularly as I had nearly convinced some of my friends and family to invest. I think wine is and can be a great investment, but it requires care and attention and above all for investors to actually lay eyes on what they’re buying. The entire time I was at SOI I never saw one bottle!

(NB The names of people and company have been changed – those used are entirely fictitious.)

Monday, 23 December 2013

Bordeaux Fine Wines Ltd: in provisional liquidation in public interest

Press release from the Insolvency Service:

'Bordeaux Fine Wines Ltd (“BFW”), a company that sold wine to investors, was put into provisional liquidation by the High Court in the public interest on 19 December 2013, following an investigation by the Insolvency Service.

BFW, based in Croydon, South West London sold fine wines, mostly from the Bordeaux region to customers as an investment, cold calling potential customers. The order follows a petition on behalf of the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills.

The Official Receiver has been appointed provisional liquidator of BFW. The role of the provisional liquidator is to protect assets in the possession or under the control of the company pending the determination of the petition.

The provisional liquidator also has the power to investigate the affairs of the company insofar as it is necessary to protect the assets including any third party or trust money or assets in the possession or under the control of the company.

The case is now subject to High Court action and no further information will be made available until the hearing of the petition which is due to be heard in the High Court on 26 February 2014. 

Notes to Editors

  1. The registered office of Bordeaux Fine Wines Ltd is Imperial House, North Street, Bromley, Kent BR1 1SD. It was incorporated on 18th September 2008.
  2. The petition was presented under s124A of the Insolvency Act 1986. The Official Receiver was appointed as Provisional Liquidator of the company on 19h December 2013. 

All public enquiries concerning the affairs of the company should be made to: Stuart Tatham, Public Interest Unit, 4 Abbey Orchard Street, London SW1P 2HT or e-mail:

The sole director of Bordeaux Fine Wines Ltd is 30-year-old Kenneth Gundlach. Gundlach is also a director of Invest in Storage Ltd (appointed 4.10.12), Capital Wealth Venture Ltd (app: 4.1.2013), Hunter & Reynolds Ltd (app: 7.2.13), Sales Recruit UK Ltd (7.2.13), Driving Made Simple (app: 4.4.13) and Bordeaux Merchants Ltd (app: 29.5.13).   

Ken Gundlach is closing several of his companies: Bordeaux Merchants, Hunter & Reynolds and Invest in Storage are down for voluntary strike-off with the first gazettes published on 5.11.2013. Dmlg has changed its name to Sales Recruit Ltd  – its website is currently 'undergoing urgent maintenance'.

In 2012 Bordeaux Fine Wines Ltd sponsored the Race Owners Association's (ROA) Horseracing Awards. 

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Bordeaux Fine Wines Ltd in the UK High Court, London


Thursday, 19 December 2013
At half past 10


United Drug (UK) Holdings Ltd v Bilcare Singapore PTE Ltd & anr
Re A Company 8850/2013

TNO Renewables Ltd

Secretary of State for Business, Innovation & Skills v Bordeaux Fine Wines Ltd

Turnkey Estates Ltd v Moore

See here.

A petition to close the company in the public interest?

Sole director is 30-year-old Kenneth Gundlach

Friday, 13 December 2013

Is the Investors Chronicle corked?

Château Gazin, Pomerol

Today the Investors Chronicle, part of the Financial Times group, has published an article on wine investment entitled: 'Is wine investing corked?' Written by Mark Robinson, 'alternative asset investment expert for Investor’s Chronicle', it makes some good points including a strong warning to avoid cold callers. However, there is one gross inaccuracy when Robinson blames wine investment funds for the losses that too many investors have suffered: 

'Dwindling alternatives - the DIY option
Given that UK investors have lost upwards of £100m since 2008 due to the collapse of dozens of managed wine investment vehicles, we remain highly sceptical about the claims of many managers of wine funds. And we're not alone. In June, the UK Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) banned the promotion of wine funds and other alternative investments to the bulk of retail investors in the UK, while from 31 December fund managers running unit trusts will not be allowed to invest in wine funds and other alternative investments. And while we're certainly not suggesting that every wine investment scheme out there is badly administered, or is misleading with regard to expected rates of return, we believe that the bulk of retail investors would be best served by adopting a DIY approach to wine investment.'

I was contacted yesterday by Speed Communications, a PR company who work for The Investors Chronicle, and given sight of the article before it was published. Naturally I pointed out the inaccuracy about wine funds:

'Managed wine funds
The figure of £100 million lost does not relate to managed wine funds, which as you know come up some financial regulation. The £100 million is a quote from
Nadim Ailyan of Abbots Fielding and refers cold calling companies offering cases of wine as an investment, examples would include Bordeaux UK, Nouveau World Wines etc. The list continues to grow.'   

The estimated £100 million loss quoted in the article has come through scam, cold calling companies offering the DIY alternative. I hope the Investors Chronicle will correct this error. 

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Capital Bordeaux Investments Ltd disappeared – white knights circling?

Capital Bordeaux Investments Ltd – cheap and nasty website 

 White knights appear to be circling 

Capital Bordeaux Investments Ltd seem to have disappeared. A client of theirs reports that: 'I've phoned (cut off), emailed (no response) written to 68 Lombard Street on 15th Nov and the letter was returned in the post today by royal mail.' This client bought 2011 Lafite-Rothschild en primeur. Although some 2011 Bordeauxs have started to arrive in the UK, it is likely that the Lafite will not be shipped until spring 2014. Whether, of course, Capital Bordeaux and its sole director 23-year-old Scott Andrews even bought the remains to be seen. The company claimed to have an account at London City Bond – unfortunately LCB has no record of account in this name.   

'Capital Bordeaux Investments Ltd: This company and Capital Bordeaux Vintners share the same address – serviced offices at 68 Lombard Street, London EC3V 9LJ. (68 Lombard Street is a popular address for wine investment companies – also used by European Fine Wines Ltd.) Formed 24.4.2012.
Claims wine investment is tax free. Sole director: 24-year-old Scott Andrews
Cheap and nasty website. 
Update: 5th August 2013: annual return is overdue since 22nd May 2013.
14.11.2013: annual return still overdue.
28.11.2013: Company seems to have disappeared. Among the wines it sold was 2011 Lafite-Rothschild, whether Scott Andrew and his company bought any is another matter.'

Watch out for White Knights!
Following the apparent disappearance of Capital Bordeaux Investments Ltd, white knights may be circling perhaps intent on causing further damage to people's savings as the client reports: 'Interestingly I've had no less than 5 cold calls today from investment companies trading in gold, wine etc.   Have said no to each of them and why.'      

Friday, 15 November 2013

The London Vines Ltd: watch out for White Knights!

 Watch out for White Knights contacting 
you about a failed company!

investdrinks has received a number of reports of companies contacting clients of the now collapsed The London Vines Ltd with offers of help and to buy their wines. 

The London Vines Ltd went into liquidation on 31st October 2013 with an announced deficit of £590,000, while the company’s assets are negligible. It is very likely that the deficit will rise considerably once all the claims are in. The insolvency practitioner appointed is Joanna Wallace of Findlay James based in Cheltenham.

“I don’t know what the true deficit is yet,” Joanna Wallace told investdrinks. “Laura Goedhuis of Private Reserves Ltd. “is compiling a list of clients who have not yet received their wine.”

Wallace added: “Some of the company’s clients have their wine but not all the wine is there. It would appear that there were payments made by the firm’s customers for goods that were not supplied. At the moment I can’t quantify what wine is missing but it may be substantial.”

Although it is romantic to be rescued by a white knight, beware the chivalrous stranger may turn out to have feet of clay. You might also wonder how they got hold of your details, so as to be able to contact you – who passed on your details?

The warning issued by Thames Valley Police in relation to World Wide Investments Ltd applies here:
'In the meantime we have become aware of further wine companies who have been contacting investors and you should be very cautious if you receive calls from any companies offering you investment opportunities.

The following companies are known to have contacted clients of The London Vines Ltd:
Johnston & Carter Ltd doubtless diamond geezers but no thanks! Share capital £1    
One Vine Day Ltd  Share capital £1    
Woolf Sung Ltd Share capital £1
(further details of companies to be added.)

I would follow Police advice and be very cautious. How did these companies get the details of clients of The London Vines Ltd?

Ethical Elegance Ltd: this company also went into liquidation at the end of October 2013. Clients of this company should also be wary of calls from other investment companies offering assistance and advice.

* NB Private Reserves Ltd has no connection with The London Vines Ltd. The company arranges wine storage. 

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Worldwide Wine Investments Ltd: three arrested + watch out for white knights!

 Watch out for white knights – 
determined to never give a sucker an even break!

Notice from the Police to clients of Worldwide Wine Investments Ltd:

'On 23rd October 2013, three people were arrested by officers investigating Worldwide Wine Investments (Operation Dinghy).

The arrested persons were a 22-year-old man, a 23-year-old woman and a 47-year-old man all from Essex who were held at two addresses on suspicion of fraud and money laundering.

They have all been released on bail (one to December 2013 and two to February 2014) pending further enquiries.

The investigation is ongoing and we will continue to provide significant updates.

In the meantime we have become aware of further wine companies who have been contacting investors and you should be very cautious if you receive calls from any companies offering you investment opportunities.

Two of these companies, Spencer & Elstein and Murdoch & Chase are currently being investigated by the City of London trading standards department.*

You are advised to contact the City of London trading standards department if you have any concerns.

Telephone - 020 7332 3406'


The sole director of Worldwide Wine Investments Ltd (established  29th March 2007 and based in Milton Keynes) at the time it ceased trading was 47-year-old David Nicol. The investigation by Thames Valley Police has been running for over a year now.

* Spencer & Elstein Ltd was set up on 23rd January 2013. Its address is Tower 42, 25 Old Broad Street, London EC2N 1HN – a serviced office/ accommodation address. The sole director is 24-year-old Aaron Sandford. They have a glossy but vacuous website. Under investigation by City of London Trading Standards.  

* Murdoch & Chase is not a UK limited company. Does have a glossy but uninformative website  (full of vacuous puffery but no meat) – no mention of who is involved in the organisation etc.. Website was registered on 29th May 2013. Funnily enough Murdoch & Chase Asset Management is also based at Tower 42, 25 Old Broad Street, London EC2N 1HN. They claim to be experts in 'stagnant asset release'! Under investigation by City of London Trading Standards.

I certainly would not consider buying or selling wine through either Spencer & Elstein Ltd or Murdoch & Chase. Although it is romantic to be rescued by a white knight, beware the chivalrous stranger may turn out to have feet of clay. You might also wonder how they got hold of your details, so as to be able to contact you – who passed on your details? 

Another company has contacted clients of Worldwide Wine Investments Ltd – Turner-Belgarde Ltd, which was founded on 13th June 2013). Its contact address on the website is given as Glen House, 125 Old Brompton Road, London SW7 3RP. These are serviced/virtual offices. The registered office is 113 Winnipeg Way, Canada Fields, Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, EN10 6FH with 41-year-old Stephen Turner as the sole director. Although founded just five months ago, Turner-Belgarde Ltd claims to be 'a specialist fine wine wholesaler'.

Going by their laughably wrong advice (from their website – registered on 29th August 2013) on how wine is not subject to Capital Gains Tax, I would certainly not rely on their expertise!

Turner-Belgarde: 'So providing wine is not held for more than 50 years, it is an investment completely exempt from Capital Gains Tax, meaning you retain all your profits' – premier cru nonsense!!

More gold-plated nonsense from Turner-Belgarde Ltd (above): 
'Thanks to the worldwide interest in fine wines, a ready market awaits and thankfully it's one that's not susceptible to the normal fluctuations experienced by interest rates and stock markets'

Clearly Turner-Belgarde Ltd is not aware of the Liv-ex 100

31.10.2008: Liv-ex 100 was @ 216
30.6.2011  : Liv-ex 100 was @ 365
31.10.2013: Liv-ex 100 was @ 265 

Looks to me like a very definite fluctuation – don't you agree Stephen Turner

Claim of a 'global network'

'When you are ready to sell, Turner-Belgarde global network of private and trade buyers will secure the best price available in the market. We have all the right connections in place to make a swift and safe settlement.'

So Stephen Turner: are we talking Facebook friends here? Your five month old company (share capital all of £1) already has a global network of private and trade buyers!! Congratulations! if true – if not this is utter bollocks (a technical term' yet another wallet-thinning scam

The company also claims to have an account at London City Bond. This is untrue – the company does not have an account at LCB, who have never heard of Turner-Belgarde Ltd

I shall also steer clear of Turner-Belgarde Ltd.  

Friday, 1 November 2013

Ian Paul Vanderhook (Bordeaux UK Ltd) banned as director for 9 years

Ian Vanderhook (Bordeaux UK Ltd) has been banned as a UK company director for nine years. The disqualification period started from 18th October 2013. Give the details below Vanderhook looks to have got away relatively lightly with a nine year ban as 15 years is the maximum ban, especially as Vanderhook has failed to cooperate with either the Insolvency Service or the Liquidator.

Unfortunately a ban as a company director still allows Vanderhook to operate as a sole trader or in a partnership – he could, of course, hook up with Andrew Dunne, who was almost certainly the true brains and knowledge behind Bordeaux UK Ltd. Bordeaux Northern Cyprus Partnership has a certain ring to it! 

Given the details in the Insolvency Service press release there would appear to be good grounds for a police investigation and criminal charges.

Press release from UK Insolvency Service:
“Mismanagement on a colossal scale” leads to disqualification for wine investment company director

Ian Paul Vanderhook, the director of a wine investment company – Bordeaux UK Ltd (‘Bordeaux UK) which took in more than £23m from investors and folded with debts of more than £10m - has been banned as a director for nine years for failing to keep proper company books and records.

The disqualification, which started on 18 October 2013 following an investigation by the Insolvency Service, means that Mr Vanderhook (34) cannot be a director, manage or control a company until 2022.

Mr Vanderhook gave undertaking to the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation not to be a director or manage or control a company until after the disqualification ends.

Bordeaux UK took over £23million from investors between October 2008 and November 2011 of which, only £4.6m was used to purchase wine. The company went into creditors’ liquidation on 30 November 2011 with debts of over £10m but with only £1.7 million of wine available. Mr Nedim Ailyan was appointed as the liquidator.

Of the remaining £19million, Mr Vanderhook benefitted from at least £2million whilst £13million cannot be explained or accounted for as business- related, due to the lack of accounting records.

The investigation showed Mr Vanderhook had failed to keep adequate books and records for three companies, Bordeaux UK Limited, Van Der Hook Management Limited and Van Der Hook Consultancy Limited.

The former lift engineer set up Bordeaux UK in 2002 to encourage members of the public to invest in fine wines, predominantly from the Bordeaux region of France.

The wine recommended to investors by brokers employed by Bordeaux UK was both “In-Bond” - bottled wine stored in bonded warehouses in the UK - and “En-Primeur” - a method of purchasing wines whilst the vintage is still in the barrel and thus not bottled or available to be shipped for at least a year.

In addition, the liquidator was forced to employ specialist agents to assist with unravelling the mess left by Mr Vanderhooks’ failure to keep proper records and to analyse and reconcile claims from investors in excess of £10m.

The liquidator, Nedim Ailyan, called the situation a “mismanagement on a colossal scale” and further stated:

“In my experience the books and records were completely inadequate and we were unable to ascertain the level of creditors due to deficiencies within them. As an example we have instances of wine that was allegedly allocated to individuals but there is no record of the wine being transferred.

“In addition, individuals alleged that the company disposed of wine on their behalf and this was to either be replaced with other stocks of wine or alternatively the proceeds passed to them but this never happened.

“There were no financial records available to us that would have helped us to formulate a statement of affairs or to reconcile individuals’ accounts and on average it was taking at least a day to reconcile each individual’s account due to the volume of sales.”

Furthermore, due to the lack of any accounting records, the Insolvency Service is unable to establish what taxes were due to HM revenue & Customs.

It was also not possible to determine why Van Der Hook Management Limited and Van Der Hook Consultancy Limited received and paid out money from the Bordeaux account as Mr Vanderhook claimed neither company was actively trading.

Given Van Der Hook Management Limited used the trading style of Bordeaux UK, it is suspected their accounts were used for funds due to Bordeaux UK Ltd.

Mr Vanderhook has not co-operated with the Insolvency Service or the liquidator and has not explained the financial transactions or why investors have lost in excess of £10 million.

David Brooks, a Chief Examiner for the Insolvency Service stated:
“This case serves as an example of why companies must keep accounting records and make them available to the liquidator or administrator.

“Without the books and records, costs in the liquidation have increased and what happened to a large amount of investor's money cannot be explained.

“The fact investors have lost in excess of £10million whilst only £1.7million of wine stock was available to them makes this an especially serious case.

“Directors who do not maintain and preserve their company’s books and records adequately will be investigated by the Insolvency Service and in the appropriate cases, disqualified to protect the public and the business community.”

Notes to Editors
Ian Paul Vanderhook is of Kent and his date of birth is 8 August 1979.
Bordeaux UK Limited was incorporated on 19 September 2002 and entered creditors voluntary liquidation on 30 November 2011.

A disqualification order has the effect that without specific permission of a court, a person with a disqualification cannot;
act as a director of a company;
take part, directly or indirectly, in the promotion, formation or management of a company or limited liability partnership;
act as an insolvency practitioner; or
be a receiver of a company’s property.
In addition, many other restrictions are placed on disqualified directors by other regulations.