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Thursday, 20 June 2013

Nouveau World Wines/ Finbow Wines trial: Wednesday 18th June 2013 – Dina Snelling takes the stand

Dina Snelling took the witness stand and was questioned by her counsel – Nick Corsellis.

She told the jury that she was born on 4th December 1977. She is of previous good character, no previous convictions and this is the first time she has given evidence in a court. She left school with no formal qualifications and started work as a nanny/child minder looking after babes up to children aged 13. After doing this for some five years she became an air stewardess working for British Caledonian before moving into secretarial work where she stayed for around five years. She has no qualifications in business management.In January 2007 her daughter was born. The father provided no support. From late 2007 to early 2008 she worked as a painter, decorator and cleaner. 

Dina was asked how the Snelling family viewed Daniel's new business, Nouveau World Wines. "Daniel had been in the wine trade for three or four years. He had extensive knowledge about wines - he was for ever going on about wine." Dina agreed that he was an expert. "The family were proud that Daniel's new business was thriving and he was doing so well."

Dina: "At the end of 2007 I had no work and didn't know what to do. I had been left by my daughter's father." At Daniel Snelling's suggestion she joined Nouveau in early March 2008 as an opener, which involved phoning people up to introduce them to wine investment and to the company. She worked using phone numbers on an Excel spreadsheet and would arrange to send a company brochure if there was an interest.   

It was not a job she enjoyed nor was she very good at it – ‘it was quite deflating you need quite a thick skin”, so in May 2008 she moved into administration. Initially she worked with Lucy Jones, who Dina described as “around 5ft 4 with dyed ginger, blonde hair, needed a good wash and had a problem with her nose”.  When Jones left, Dina took over as office manager. She adopted Lucy Jones' name for the sake of “continuity and to save the expense of having new business cards printed”. 

She described the record and filing system at Nouveau as “just chaos – couldn’t find anything”. Lucy Jones “hadn’t filed anything correctly, had rewritten one document over another, meaning that it would indicate just one trade instead of multiple trades”. There was no one doing the books. “Daniel (Snelling) chaotic. His organisational skills? – none.” One of her roles became to sort out the filing and records. 

Asked about how much wine was purchased, Dina said “she didn’t have a clue – it was never mentioned. It was not her job to monitor wine purchases.”

At Daniel’s request Dina took over the Globex account – transferring money to Australia to pay for wine purchased. “We were buying a lot of wine – huge amount of money transferred.”

There were no board meetings – no meetings. She said that Daniel was “good at delegating – quite good”. “There was no-one in charge of accountancy – not aware of any records being kept.”

Turning to Winevaults, the storage company in Australia, Dina Snelling said she “was concerned about Winevaults’ efficiency”. She had “a few issues later in 2008, which increased in 2009”. She described how she and Rebecca McDonald had sent two large parcels of documents to Winevaults at the end of 2008. Winevaults denied ever receiving these two batches of documents.

Dina explained that in September 2008 Rebecca McDonald, her cousin, joined the company. Dina needed to assess how inaccurate the records were and this was a job she could not do on her own. Rebecca had no accountancy qualifications but she was used to managing up to 30 people. Becky’s task was “to put the back office in order”.

Regarding the laptop seized in Simon Dempsey’s car in November 2009, the computer had a log-in for Dina but it was a Nouveau company computer, which Dina sometimes used but was available for others.

Corsellis’ questioning then moved onto the setting up of Finbow. Dina explained that she first met Simon Dempsey in the Bar du Musée (Greenwich) in February 2009. Dempsey and Daniel were having discussions about setting up a new company, which would be selling Old World Wines (Bordeaux etc.) as Dempsey spoke good French. Dina was not involved in these discussions – “none of my business”.

Although Nouveau continued in April and May, Dina’s focus was increasingly on Finbow. Regarding using different names or persons, Dina explained that, although she had used Dina during her time as an opener, she thought it was “a natural progression” to stay as Lucy when she took over as office manager. “She didn’t see a problem with it.” She explained that at the time Nouveau was receiving a bad press from Jim Budd with the name Snelling attached to it – “a lot of bad publicity by Jim Budd”. Thus she did not want to use her surname Snelling – which could reflect badly on the company. Someone in the office suggested the name Harriet Harbridge, which she adopted. 

By July 2009 Finbow had an email account. Daniel Snelling used the name Aston. He wasn’t present at the time and this was chosen for him as he drove an Aston Martin. Dina said he would have been free to change it later on but never did.The plan to sell Old World French wines was short lived as in July and August 2009 they hadn’t sold any. So at the start of September 2009 there was a change of direction to buy cheap Italian wine and send it in containers to Hong Kong, China etc. Dina thought that the 12-month buy back guarantee showed the legitimacy of Finbow. “It insures the investor completely.”  

Dina Snelling was asked about a meeting with Mr Parsons, who was providing a new database called ACT. In his evidence earlier in the trial Parson had said that when he raised including suppliers on the database, he was warded away from the subject. Dina: "There was no need to have suppliers on the database. They had no wish for their suppliers to general knowledge. Didn't want to give out that information. Suppliers are the core of the business. Daniel guarded that information very closely. 

She was also questioned by her counsel about two companies: Merchant to Merchant and Greenleaf. Merchant to Merchant was to have been involved in containerisation, while Greenleaf would be for ethical investments – eco-friendly, pollution and water etc. It was to be based in Australia and at the end of 2009 Dina went out to set it up. However, Dina came back around February 2010 as Daniel asked her to come back to sort out the back office at Finbow. 

Corsellis closed his questioning by asking what effect this case had had on her. Dina: “devastating – both physical and emotional”. Through tears she explained that she had had to pull her daughter out of school because she had been bullied.

Cross-examination by the prosecution
This started in the last session of the day and will continue on Thursday. To be covered in the next report.


  1. Excellent reporting. I look forward to receiving updates on the trial as it continues. It will be very interesting to see if the prosecution can find sufficient eveidence to prove that 'muliple frauds' took place. To blame this debacle on poor administration and unreliable storage companies used the other side of the world seems a very poor defence at this stage.

  2. Received during the trial but not posted. The jury obviously agreed with you. One of the most shocking aspects of the trial was the failure to keep any proper records – of course this would have highlighted the fraud.