Second wine firm probed over scam fears

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The Independent Online

A second wine company is under investigation by Scotland Yard detectives probing a multimillion-pound investment swindle, it emerged today.

Investigators have begun examining the accounts of Finbow Wine, a company claiming to have offices in London and Hong Kong.



The business offers lucrative returns to customers who invest large sums in premium French vintages and large quantities of Italian table wine.



It also sold investment packages in wine to be sold in South Africa during the World Cup football tournament this summer.



But police suspect the company is simply a front for a cold-calling con that has left dozens of investors out of pocket.



Two men behind the company, director Paul Rees and colleague Simon Dempsey, have been arrested and questioned at a central London police station.



Police are investigating whether the company is linked to Nouveau World Wines, based in Bromley, south east London.



Salesmen at that company are suspected of duping people into handing over tens of thousands of pounds each to invest in specialist Australian wines.



Victims have accused them of using similar high-pressure tactics to boiler room conmen flogging worthless shares.



Once the money was taken the investors were told the wine had been laid down in overseas vaults to increase in value as it aged.



Police are investigating if stocks were hugely over-priced and the size of potential returns exaggerated. It may be the case that no wine was ever stored.



Six people were arrested last month when officers raided offices and homes in in Docklands, Sidcup and Bexley.



Specialist internet message boards contain a large number of comments from customers concerned they have been ripped off by either company.



Detective Chief Inspector Robin Cross, of the Fraud Squad, said two further arrests were made after the first raids.



A 40-year old woman and a 53-year-old man were arrested on suspicion of money laundering at a central London police station last month.



Mr Cross said: "This kind of investment fraud is becoming far too common.



"People from all economic backgrounds are being targeted and persuaded to invest in what appears to be a sound financial opportunity.



"We would advise those considering investing money, whether it be a small or large amount, to do their research and be sure that the companies or individuals they are dealing with are reputable and legitimate."



According to its website, Finbow Wine is a team of internationally experienced wine buyers with more than two decades of experience.



As well as wine, staff offer to sell champagne, port, whisky and cognac from vineyards and distilleries around the world.



A London telephone number was not working and a Hong Kong telephone number was not answered. Internet records show the company website was set up in May last year.