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Friday, 20 May 2016

Diamond rip off results in 13-year ban for director – Craig Phillip O’Driscoll

Soothing false reassurance ....

Read the small print

Craig Phillip O'Driscoll of Ethical Elegance Ltd banned for 13 years
Press release
Diamond rip off results in 13-year ban for director

First published: 18 May 2016
Director disqualified for 13 years for giving false information to customers and failing to keep proper company books and records.

An investigation by the Insolvency Service has resulted in Craig Phillip O’Driscoll, director of failed investment company Ethical Elegance Limited, being disqualified by the High Court for giving false information to customers to persuade them to transfer valuable wines to the company in exchange for diamonds, and for failing to keep proper company records.
Ethical Elegance Ltd, which operated out of rented addresses in Bromley and Dartford in Kent, traded by offering diamonds to customers in exchange for fine wine assets and by promising to then sell the diamonds on the customers’ behalf.

The Insolvency Service’s investigations found that between May 2013 and August 2013 at least 7 customers were persuaded to transfer wines to the company after being offered diamonds stated to be worth over £240,000. But after transferring their wines none of the customers received any proceeds from the sale of diamonds. Instead customers were sent diamonds in the post, but the values of these were a fraction of the amounts promised. Ethical Elegance Ltd went into liquidation on 29 October 2013 owing debts of over £215,000 to customers.

The investigations also found that Mr O’Driscoll failed to provide any accounting records for Ethical Elegance Ltd to the Liquidators. Without the records it has not been possible to explain expenditure of over £177,000 made from the company’s bank account or to trace diamonds costing over £16,000.

Mr O’Driscoll (33) of Bromley, Kent was disqualified by an order made in the High Court on 13 April 2016, which prevents him from acting as a director of a company for 13 years from 4 May 2016.

Commenting on the disqualifications, Martin Gitner, Deputy Head Investigator at the Insolvency Service, said:

"Mr O’Driscoll was responsible for the company making false promises to people to persuade them to enter into agreements. He was also responsible for the company failing to keep or produce proper accounting records, the absence of which means that not all the company’s funds and assets can be traced.

Consumers and the wider business community need protection from people who operate companies in such unscrupulous ways.

This disqualification should serve as a warning that if directors behave in this way their conduct will be investigated and they will be removed from the business environment."

Notes to editors
Ethical Elegance Ltd (CRO No. 05978081) was incorporated on 25 October 2006 and was dormant till it commenced trading in March 2013.

Craig Phillip O’Driscoll was appointed as director on 4 March 2013 and remained the sole director thereafter. His date of birth is 28 May 1983.

The company’s registered office address was 145-157 St John’s Street, London EC1V 4PW. The company operated out of rented properties in Bromley and Dartford in Kent.

The company traded by offering to exchange customers’ fine wine investment assets for diamonds and to sell the diamonds on the customers’ behalf. Between May 2013 and August 2013 at least seven customers entered into asset exchange agreements with the company whereby the customers transferred wine assets to the company after being offered diamonds stated to be worth £243,284. The customers’ wines were sold by the company for a total of £128,407. The company failed to acquire diamonds to the values offered to the customers and it failed to sell any diamonds on behalf of customers. The total cost of diamonds purchased by Ethical Elegance Ltd amounted to £44,458. Some of the customers were sent diamonds in the post, but the values of these were substantially below the amounts that had been promised to customers to induce them to enter into the agreements in the first place.

The company entered into creditors’ voluntary liquidation on 29 October 2013. Its assets totalled £3,527 and its liabilities totalled £239,600, giving a deficiency of £236,073. No accounting records for Ethical Elegance Ltd were provided to the Liquidators. In the absence of accounting records it was not possible to explain and account for expenditure from the bank account totalling £177,257 or to trace diamonds purchased by the company costing £16,411.

Thursday, 12 May 2016

RST Contracts Ltd and a Russian 'buyer' + compare & contrast

On Monday I was contacted by a senior member of the fine wine trade with the following query about RST Contracts Ltd:  

'I wanted to ask you if you have come across the above company? ( I have just been reading your February post on London Commodity Exchange with interest. I have a client who lost a lot of wine/money in the Bordeaux Fine Wine saga, and has been repeatedly contacted by RST Contracts who claim that they have c. £250k of his wine, that they have a Russian buyer for it and that he needs to pay c. £40k VAT – refundable – in advance and he will then be sent the proceeds.'

I contacted David Ingram and Hannah Davie at Grant Thornton, who are dealing with the winding up of Bordeaux Fine Wine Ltd. Ingram had told me back in February that there were no stocks of wine magically lying outside the UK:

'We have undertaken a comprehensive forensic exercise on the little wine that was actually purchased by Bordeaux Fine Wines and are satisfied that it has been accounted for. There is certainly no stocks of wine overseas.' David Ingram (February 2016.

On Tuesday Hannah Davie of Grant Thornton replied: 

'I confirm that we have heard from several creditors of Bordeaux who have been contacted by RST Contracts advising that they have identified their wine, which they can sell for them to Russian or off shore investors, for an upfront fee.

One creditor in particular asked RST Contracts for documentation to evidence they had located his wine and the identity of the purchaser etc, but was not provided with anything from RST.'

Grant Thornton's view is that this story about a 'Russian buyer' is another example of advance fee fraud associated with the non-purchase of stocks of wine by Bordeaux Fine Wine Ltd. 


RST Contracts Ltd was incorporated on 9th April 2013. There are four current directors: Albert Sidney Brown (DOB: 11.1948 – software engineer), Caroline Clarke (DOB: March 1953 – management accountant), Maxine Matthews (DOB: October 1967 – administrator) and Kenneth Peter Ward (DOB: February 1953 – director). Share capital as of 1.6.2015 was £1 held by Peter Kenneth Ward. The registered office and trading address is: 33 New Barn Street, London, E13 8JZ – a residential address in Plaidstow. Accounts to 30.4.2014) for a dormant company were filed on 4.11.14. The latest accounts (30.4.2015) show net assets of £1,753,063.

The website for RST Contracts Ltd was registered on 17.2.2016. 


Websites: Compare and contrast – Amphora Portfolio Management – RST Contracts Ltd
RST Contracts and their four directors are clearly advocates of recycling as a comparison between their website and that of Amphora Portfolio Management shows that much if not all of the RST website has been copied word for word from Amphora. See below.

RST Contracts Ltd have used Amphora's material without permission. David Jackson, a director of Amphora Portfolio Management Ltd, wrote to the directors of RST Contracts Ltd on 9th May 2016 requiring them to undertake by the end of Wednesday 11th May 2016 to cease using the material and to seek his permission for any future use. RST have until close of business on Friday 13th May 2016 or face the possibility of legal action.   

Why Amphora?: 

Why RST Contracts Ltd?:

It would seem that the directors of RST Contracts Ltd have yet to master the full intricacies of find and replace as they have forgotten to fully replace here – '.... but at Amphora we argue ....'     Oops!! 


I will certainly steer well clear of RST Contracts Ltd no matter how persuasive their promises of Russian buyers may sound ..... 

Update: 17th May 2016

RST Contracts Ltd website has been taken down by its ISP. See comments.  

Monday, 2 May 2016

The Mysteries of Montevino Partners

A look at the Montevino Partners website is reassuring it is lists both its founder and its wine experts. However, compare these details with those filed with UK Companies House and questions start to emerge.  

The Founder - Martin Edgerton Gill

You might imagine that Monetvino Partners' company name would be Montevino Partners Ltd and there is a Montevino Partners Ltd, which was incorporated on 17.4.2014. Thomas Roger White (DOB: 18.4.1979) is the sole director. The £1000 share capital is split between £950 for Thomas White and £50 for David Parker. However, Montevino Partners Ltd is a dormant company – accounts for a dormant company to 30th April 2015 were filed on 11.1.2016. 

However, Thomas White informed me that
'Montevino Partners Limited was registered straight away as we wanted to protect the name at first, but we use MPL as our retail sales outlet and is not dormant as from November 2014 we have held our premises licence and our barclaycard facilities, we have changed offices at end of 2015 and the premise licensing has been reapplied to new premises, I believe we may be late filling our accounts.'

This is somewhat curious as it was a Thomas White who was responsible for filing the accounts for a dormant company to 30th April 2015. The accounts state: 'The company is dormant and has not traded during the period or subsequent to the period end.' If Montevino Partners Ltd has indeed been trading since November 2014 why were dormant accounts made up to 30th April 2015? I did raise this with Thomas White but so far have no received a response.  

Instead Montevino Partners is the trading name of Spirited Ventures Ltd, which was incorporated on 19.7.2013. Thomas White (appointed 6.5.2014) is now sole director. The previous sole director – John Ellis Jeffrey – resigned on 28.5.2014. Share capital is £1000 – £250 Thomas White, £225 Bilhar Singh, £250 David Parker, £100 Adrian Nurse, £115 Michael Wilson and £35 Peter Pipe.

Although Martin Edgerton Gill is credited with being the founder of Montevino Partners he has never been a director or shareholder of either Montevino Partners Ltd or Spirited Ventures Ltd. When the latter company was incorporated in July 2013 Jeffrey was the sole shareholder with a holding of £1.

I understand that Gill ceased to be involved in Montevino during 2015.

Claudio Martins is profiled as wine director. Martins did work for the company from May 2014 but left by November 2015. I understand that he is not happy that he is still listed as Montevino's wine expert and is seeking to have this removed from the site. 

Thomas White has told investdrinks that: 'We have had the website under development for sometime, as we wish to update various items including the removal of Claudio as mutually agreed amongst several other changes required.'

Daniel Carnio is listed as their wine expert. However, he is also no longer with Montevino Partners. Although a Google search mentions Montevino Partners is on his Linked-in profile, there is now no mention of any involvement with Montevino Partners on his current profile. 

White has told investdrinks that "we are as yet to appoint a new Wine Director as a full time team member but we have sufficient cover by third party consultants as we have used others as agents for buying and selling accordingly".

Although no named wine experts apparently remain involved but Montevino Partners does still have a Michael Moore, whose brother Paul Moore of Manor Hall, Chigwell is disqualified from acting as a UK company director for 14 years – a very lengthy ban that runs from 5.12.2014 to 4.12.2028. Paul Moore was the sole director of Manor Rose Carbon Credit Ltd. Curiously it appears that the deficit is only £201.

Paul Moore's ban is set out in WIREDGOV here: Court closes web of unscrupulous landbanking and carbon credit companies that raised £6.5 million from investors. Among the companies closed was Dakota Partners International CC Limited, a land banking and carbon credits company. Michael Moore was 'responsible for the Dakota sales staff' and was paid £224,900.37 by Manor Rose on £224,900.37.   

'Although Mr Moore asserts that Manor Rose had no inter-relationship with the other companies such as Dakota, it is apparent that this is not so as the provisional liquidator has reported that Manor Rose paid Mr Michael Moore, Mr Moore's brother who was responsible for the Dakota sales staff, the sum of £224,900.37 on 4 November 2010. Despite requesting an explanation from Mr Moore, through his solicitors, on 12 March 2012, Mr Moore has yet to respond.' WIREGOV  

Moore has been charged with fraud and stealing more than £100,000. The case was transferred to Maidstone Crown Court with a preliminary hearing on 1st May 2015 and was listed for trial on 25th January 2016.    

'01-05-2015 Maidstone Crown Court 5 T20157172 / T20157173,
Haydon Driscoll
Michael Robert Moore
Details: For Preliminary Hearing - Case Started - May 1 2015 
For Preliminary Hearing - Case to be listed for Trial on 25-Jan-2016'

The trial was delayed and is now listed to start at Maidstone Crown Court on Monday 21st November 2016.

Montevino Partners website was registered on 9.1.2014. There are no Terms & Conditions listed on the site. Thomas White: 'The terms and conditions have been updated within our paperwork and should have been reinstalled on the website.'

I think I will probably pass on Montevino Partners – thanks.  

Update 26th July 2016
On 5th July 2016 First Gazette notice for a compulsory strike-off of Spirited Ventures Ltd was issued. The company's accounts have been overdue since 30th April 2016. However, the strike-off was suspended on 19th July 2016 following an objection. 

On 13.7.2016 Montevino Partners Limited filed active accounts to 30.4.2016. The company made a loss of £6360.  

Update 11th August 2016 On 8th August 2016 Spirited Ventures Ltd went into voluntary liquidation. The resolution to going into liquidation was passed on 26th July 2016. Ninos Koumettou, 1 Kings Ave, Winchmore Hill, London N21 3NA was appointed liquidator on 8th August. The total deficiency is stated as £691,326.93. The largest creditor is Australian wine producer Clarendon Hills (£210,601.92) followed by HMRC (£155,694.75). There is also a loan from Thomas White, the sole director, of £208,869.

All of the creditors listed are trade plus Thomas White, so the deficiency assumes that all clients of Spirit Ventures Ltd (trading name Monetvino Partners Ltd) received their wine.

Thomas White is the director of three other wine companies: Montevino Partners Ltd, which is owed £40,371.76 by Spirited Ventures Ltd, Wine Genie Ltd (incorporated 9th April 2015) and 8 Wine Club Ltd – founded on 14th November 2014. Wine Genie Ltd faced a compulsory strike off for failing to file the first annual return on time. Monetvino Partners Ltd filed dormant accounts up to 30th April 2015. The latest accounts to 30th April 2016 show a loss of £6360.    

White was also the sole director of Influx Global Ltd – founded on 12th June 2014 and dissolved on 19th January 2016.