In the Media

Investors lose millions in fine wine scheme

PUBLISHED April 14, 2012

Liquidators have told the BBC they have uncovered "colossal" mismanagement in a number of companies which offered members of the public a chance to make money by investing in luxury vintages.

The schemes claimed to offer a higher yield at a time of underperforming stocks and low interest rates, but an estimated 50 wine investment companies have gone into liquidation in the last four years, leaving customers out of pocket.

Nadim Ailyan, an insolvency practitioner, told BBC Radio 4's Money Box programme his company had handled eight such cases.

"There are certainly strong elements of mismanagement on a colossal scale," he said

"I would estimate in the last four years there have been at least 50 such companies which have been dealt with by other insolvency firms.

"Certainly tens of millions, potentially over £100 million, may have been lost."

Some investors told the programme they had lost more than £100,000.

One widow, identified only as Sarah, from the East Midlands, said she put £180,000 into a wine investment company after the death of her husband.

She received certificates telling her that bottled wine had been bought and was being stored on her behalf in a bonded warehouse.

But at the end of last year a brief letter informed her the company had gone into liquidation.

"I feel ashamed that I put more money in than I should have done," she said.

Buying fine wine while still in the barrel - "en primeur" - means that investors can purchase the product far more cheaply than when bottled.

But historically fraudsters have capitalised on people's ignorance of the wine market to offer substandard products or - because of the delay between ordering and delivery - simply taken money without securing the product in return.

Last year Paul Craven, 39, of Woodside Court in Enfield, north London, was jailed for six years at St Alban's Crown Court after fleecing investors of more than £1.25 million.

Craven set up Bordeaux Wine Trading Company Ltd, in Potter's Bar, and offered the opportunity to invest in en primeur vintages, but instead of purchasing the wine on behalf of customers the funds was used to fund extravagant lifestyles with two other fraudsters.