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Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Nouveau World Wines/Finbow Wines trial: closing speeches

Simon Robert Dempsey
Rebecca Louise McDonald
Daniel Thomas Snelling
Dina Louise Snelling

The case before His Honour Judge Michael Grieve QC  is in Court 8 at Southwark CrownCourt, London SE1.

The defendants have pleaded not guilty to the charges. 
By the middle of last week the trial had moved into the closing speeches with just the judge's summing up and directions to the jury before the jury retires to consider its verdict. 

Prosecution: Julian Christopher QC
Starting his closing speech Julian Christopher invited the jury to take a step back and consider the overview. Was Nouveau World Wines a fraud or was it a question of theft by Sultan Trad and then Reset along with incompetence from Winevaults? Reset was based in Spain with its registered office in Cyprus, an island it couldn't spell correctly on its correspondence. Was it likely that Nouveau World Wines would have the misfortunate to be shafted by its suppliers twice in succession?

In his police interview in March 2010 Daniel Snelling spoke of a 15%-25% mark up on the wines. Now in his evidence to the court he claimed it was much higher – up to 50%. What he told the police in 2010 is more likely to be accurate. The higher mark up now cited by Snelling is an attempt to hide the huge discrepancy between the wine actually bought and the amount that was sold to the investors.
Over the period covered, Nouveau World Wines spent just under £450,000. If Sultan Trad was giving Nouveau credit then at a 20% mark up they would have been extending Nouveau £1 million in credit, while at 50% it would have been £1.5 million credit. 

Regarding the claims of wine lost through inefficiency at Winevaults, the wrong years for Mollydooker and the Greenock Creek Apricot Block "doesn't begin to explain what happened to the 36,000 bottles the investors thought they had bought".

There was a complete lack of any records of what had been bought, what had been sold and how many bottles there were left. Then the false paperwork - invoices from Global Cellars -  created at the end of March and beginning of April 2009 when Mr Streeter from the Companies Investigation Branch was looking into the company. The invoices were adjusted with the prices for the wines lowered. The second set of invoices were created on Dina Snelling's laptop, which had her name as the log in and her fingerprints were found on the laptop.

Christopher said that Dina Snelling and Rebecca McDonald were brought into the conspiracy because being family members they could be trusted by Daniel Snelling. His sister and cousin filled that role perfectly. Bringing in strangers to the administration would have meant that they would discover the truth.

Diana's account of sending two large packages of investors' documentation out to Winevaults in Australia was clearly a fabrication. There was no email traffic between Nouveau and Winevaults when the packages didn't arrive. 

Rebecca McDonald did not set up records when she joined in September 2008. The records were created when Streeter started his investigation. McDonald's account made no sense - she chose a ridiculous system that made amending and updating of the records very laborious.

Simon Dempsey, Dina Snelling's boyfriend, was brought in to hide the trail of money from Nouveau to Finbow. The reason given for Dempsey being brought on board was that he could speak French. However, this skill was never used. Investors in Finbow paid out £2 million but only two containers of wine were sent to Hong Kong with each container carrying around £12,000 of wine, while the third container went to Nigeria. Investors paid for around one million bottles of wine.

Finbow was clearly Daniel Snelling's company - he owned it and ran it. However, when interviewed by the police Daniel Snelling claimed that he was only a consultant to Finbow employed because of his network of contacts in France, Italy and the UK. If asked, he would assist in the sourcing of wine and would give advice. Simon Dempsey and Paul Rees were running Finbow. He did not know the politics of the company. The reality was very different - Finbow was Daniel Snelling. 

With Finbow none of the lessons of Nouveau were learnt. No records were kept. If it had been a legitimate business they would have been. 

The story of how Simon Dempsey came to leave the company with he and Billy Davies going to the bank to draw out £25,000 using Rebecca McDonald's bank card does not hold water. How could Dempsey pass himself off as Rebecca McDonald?

When Rebecca McDonald left in February 2010 Daniel had to call Dina back from Australia to run the office. He needed someone in place who he could trust.

Dorian Lovell-Pank - counsel for Daniel Snelling
Lovell-Pank began his speech in defence of Daniel Snelling by quoting Confucius "man, who skates on this ice must skate fast". He claimed that Julian Christopher had swept through the case in his closing speech. The prosecution's case was based on the ideal world not the real world that we know. Their case is based on businesses run in a particular way - an ideal model. In the real world there are business failures, mistakes are made, records are not always up to date.

"The whole thing unravelled into an awful mess." "Failure is not the same thing as crime. This was not a criminal enterprise. The defendants are never criminals. The people running these businesses are not crooks."

This took court proceedings up to the close of Wednesday 26th June. I have been unable to get to court since then and will not be back in court before Wednesday 3rd July. 

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