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  • FIRST POST
    • Mrs_Frog
    • By Mrs_Frog 5th Jul 18, 2:00 PM
    • 11Posts
    • 12Thanks
    Mrs_Frog
    Dodgy wine investment???
    • #1
    • 5th Jul 18, 2:00 PM
    Dodgy wine investment??? 5th Jul 18 at 2:00 PM
    As my father was very ill in hospital, headed towards 'end of life' he admitted that he 'may have done something stupid' and said that he had invested circa 20K in wine. That in itself is not an issue, but it did surprise us, he has never had any interest in wine. However, now his estate is in probate, we need a valuation of the investment. This is one of the last things that the solicitor needs to apply for probate. She has contacted them, I have and my sister has, all to no avail.

    The telephone number is an answering service, and although they say that they will pass messages on, we have had no contact. On their website, there is no direct email, just a 'contact us' box, again to no avail.

    We are getting the feeling that this is not quite what it seems. The company's Twitter has not been active since 2016, the only thing I can find online about them is some questions raised by the wine press in 2015 (they state 15 years experience but have only been trading since 2011), and there are no reviews, positive or negative, anywhere that we can find. There have been accounts filed, that we can see, although it does not seem to have a lot of assets.

    We are at the point of going to the press and social media in relation to this, particularly the lack of response. I would love to name them here, but I am not going to as yet.

    Can anyone give me any advice as to what to do, short of actually turning up at their offices?

    Thanks MF x
Page 1
    • dunstonh
    • By dunstonh 5th Jul 18, 2:29 PM
    • 93,424 Posts
    • 60,945 Thanks
    dunstonh
    • #2
    • 5th Jul 18, 2:29 PM
    • #2
    • 5th Jul 18, 2:29 PM
    here have been accounts filed, that we can see, although it does not seem to have a lot of assets.
    That in itself is not unusual. For example, my firm has hardly any assets. Just enough to carry the FCA regulatory requirements and usually a bit more for work in progress stuff. The holding company for the trading company has the assets. So, don't read too much into the very little information that is now published on companies house.

    Can anyone give me any advice as to what to do, short of actually turning up at their offices?
    You havent named the company. So, we cant really help until you do.

    Many of these unregulated wine investing schemes were scams or just worthless bottles that have little or no resale value. So, you need to be prepared for the worst.
    I am an Independent Financial Adviser (IFA). Comments are for discussion purposes only. They are not financial advice. If you feel an area discussed may be relevant to you, then please seek advice from an Independent Financial Adviser local to you.
    • EachPenny
    • By EachPenny 5th Jul 18, 3:20 PM
    • 5,770 Posts
    • 15,306 Thanks
    EachPenny
    • #3
    • 5th Jul 18, 3:20 PM
    • #3
    • 5th Jul 18, 3:20 PM
    The telephone number is an answering service, and although they say that they will pass messages on, we have had no contact. On their website, there is no direct email, just a 'contact us' box, again to no avail.
    Originally posted by Mrs_Frog
    I would be inclined to ask a friend/relative (i.e. a different name / phone number) to contact them via the answering service inquiring about making a modest investment, say 10k. If they get called back immediately then you know the company is still operating and taking people's money. If no response then you have to start thinking that all is not ok....

    Are the Directors of the company involved in any other companies?

    We are at the point of going to the press and social media in relation to this, particularly the lack of response. I would love to name them here, but I am not going to as yet.
    Originally posted by Mrs_Frog
    Before going to the press you really need to have some kind of story to give them, other than someone has invested some money and now you cannot contact the company involved.

    There is also a risk of 'naming and shaming' and then discovering there is a genuine (though perhaps not wholly excusable) reason for the lack of response, for example serious illness. That's why it is important to find out what the company directors might be doing instead of responding to your enquiries.
    "In the future, everyone will be rich for 15 minutes"
    • Mrs_Frog
    • By Mrs_Frog 5th Jul 18, 9:25 PM
    • 11 Posts
    • 12 Thanks
    Mrs_Frog
    • #4
    • 5th Jul 18, 9:25 PM
    • #4
    • 5th Jul 18, 9:25 PM
    Thank you for that. The issue I have is that they have information that we need, almost as a matter of urgency.
    According to Kermie, when my father spoke to him about this, Dad stated that he was having difficulty in selling the wine, and that they were pressuring him to keep his stockholding, and then he got ill and was in no state to do anything. All I want to do is to actually speak to someone. We have found the MD's contact details via LinkedIn, but as yet it seems that he is ignoring that as well.

    There may well be a completely innocent explanation for this, but the solicitor has been trying to get in contact with them for at least 6 weeks now, and nothing. I have a few other options that I can try in order to contact them, one of which may involve another name and telephone number, see if they call me back then, but other than that I am at a loss. Probate can't be granted until the valuation is done, and the lack of contact is holding up the process.

    Thanks to those who have replied, it is appreciated.
    • Terry Towelling
    • By Terry Towelling 5th Jul 18, 9:26 PM
    • 210 Posts
    • 107 Thanks
    Terry Towelling
    • #5
    • 5th Jul 18, 9:26 PM
    • #5
    • 5th Jul 18, 9:26 PM
    It might help if you were able to find out how the money was paid to the company. If there is a chance it was by credit card (or even just some of it) then there may be some redress through S75 of the Consumer Credit Act if the investment is a scam. That said, the fact your father has died and it was a while ago may count against you.

    In a previous life with a credit card company we saw many issues arising out of wine investments. I also recall that many debts were written off by the card companies (not just the one I worked for) and customers were reimbursed.

    There is also a chance that, even if the company has gone, the wine may still exist in a 'bonded warehouse'. Do you have any documentation that says were the wine would be held during the investment period? The investment company (if legit) was probably just a facilitator/middleman. That may be an avenue to pursue.

    If you do ever track it down, the warehouse holding it may be able to offer a valuation - or even sell it for you. I'm not saying you should get your hopes too high but you never know. I have seen positive outcomes in the past.
    • Keep pedalling
    • By Keep pedalling 5th Jul 18, 10:15 PM
    • 5,204 Posts
    • 5,811 Thanks
    Keep pedalling
    • #6
    • 5th Jul 18, 10:15 PM
    • #6
    • 5th Jul 18, 10:15 PM
    Who are the company?
    • Reed_Richards
    • By Reed_Richards 5th Jul 18, 11:02 PM
    • 98 Posts
    • 31 Thanks
    Reed_Richards
    • #7
    • 5th Jul 18, 11:02 PM
    • #7
    • 5th Jul 18, 11:02 PM
    I believe that you are allowed to submit your best estimate for a probate valuation but should amend that estimate if it comes to light that you were wrong. You have made reasonable attempts to contact the company concerned but received no response despite waiting over six weeks. So I would think that it is reasonable to assume that the company concerned is not legitimate and the "investment" has no value.
    Reed
    • Keep pedalling
    • By Keep pedalling 6th Jul 18, 9:52 AM
    • 5,204 Posts
    • 5,811 Thanks
    Keep pedalling
    • #8
    • 6th Jul 18, 9:52 AM
    • #8
    • 6th Jul 18, 9:52 AM
    With most of these wine investments the wine will exist and will be held in a bonded wherehouse. It will not however be investment quality wine, and will have a value way under what he paid for it.

    Even the obvious solution, retrieve it and drink it, is problematical in that you would have to pay VAT and duty, and probable a service charge to get your hands on it.

    What you have inherited is a liquid illiquid asset.

    Is the estate large enough for IHT needing to be paid?
    • Paul_DNAP
    • By Paul_DNAP 6th Jul 18, 12:30 PM
    • 201 Posts
    • 227 Thanks
    Paul_DNAP
    • #9
    • 6th Jul 18, 12:30 PM
    • #9
    • 6th Jul 18, 12:30 PM
    I think for the probate you might want to write it off as a lost/fraudulent/valueless investment and proceed with the footnote that should it be traced the executors will dispose of the investment and distribute accordingly.
    (Although I could be wrong, I often am.)
    • Malthusian
    • By Malthusian 6th Jul 18, 4:01 PM
    • 4,337 Posts
    • 6,841 Thanks
    Malthusian
    There is also a risk of 'naming and shaming' and then discovering there is a genuine (though perhaps not wholly excusable) reason for the lack of response, for example serious illness.
    Originally posted by EachPenny
    If that was the reason it's not genuine either. Any legitimate company accepting investments of 20k from individual investors would have procedures in place to allow the company to continue operating even if anyone up to and including the CEO is seriously ill or dead.

    The investment is almost certainly worthless but if IHT is involved, it's not as simple as writing it off. If it later turns out that the investment isn't worthless, the estate will have evaded IHT.

    The solicitor dealing with the estate is responsible for deciding at what point there's no point in making any further phone calls, they can write it off and declare to HMRC that it's of nil value.
    • macman
    • By macman 6th Jul 18, 4:15 PM
    • 42,022 Posts
    • 17,467 Thanks
    macman
    Even if it is in a bonded warehouse somewhere, it will invariably be stored under the name of the dealer en bloc, and so be impossible to divide up into individual ownership amongst the unfortunate investors.
    I would assume that you are going to get nothing back from this at all: if you do, it'll be a pleasant surprise.
    No free lunch, and no free laptop
    • Mrs_Frog
    • By Mrs_Frog 6th Jul 18, 6:19 PM
    • 11 Posts
    • 12 Thanks
    Mrs_Frog
    Im thinking more and more that its not as legit as Id like it to be!

    The company is Intercontinental Wines, Southampton. The poor girl at their answering service got another 2 calls from me today! Dad told my husband that hed been trying to sell it but they were not helpful on that as they wanted him to keep his holding. Which to me is a red flag!

    If the money is gone, its gone, but Im going to put up a fight for it! Its Dads money and he thought he would be helping my sister and I out by an investment and Im angry at the thought that people would potentially take advantage. Also to not respond to family and a solicitor is rude and arrogant in my mind!

    IT isnt an issue, his estate is in the threshold.

    Please forgive the grammar, apostrophe not registering from iOS
    Last edited by Mrs_Frog; 06-07-2018 at 6:22 PM. Reason: Typos
    • TallGirl
    • By TallGirl 6th Jul 18, 11:03 PM
    • 4,288 Posts
    • 8,879 Thanks
    TallGirl
    My ex got scammed by a wine scam too, speak to Consumer Direct or whatever Citizens Advice call it now they will make a referral to standing standards and you might get some help there. If he was vulnerable when he took out the investment they will be very interested they were with me.

    Luckily I spotted it in time and we only lost 100 deposit got the rest back thank god.
    • Armorica
    • By Armorica 6th Jul 18, 11:48 PM
    • 731 Posts
    • 548 Thanks
    Armorica
    It's inevitably a scam. Cynically, it's gone to finance his swanky new build apartment.

    However, the company was active enough this week to submit a filing to companies house. I've found significantly more information online than I'm comfortable posting - you're welcome to PM me.

    Ideally, you need to find some correspondence/paperwork. The contract would help.

    Going the professional routes look at:
    https://www.actionfraud.police.uk/news/wine-investment-fraud-dont-let-your-investment-go-sour-apr16
    https://www.selachii.co.uk/advice-for-victims-of-wine-investment-scams.html
    https://elitefinewines.com/2017/07/19/fine-wine-investment-scams-avoid/

    Or, the Daily Mail loves stories like this...
    • Reed_Richards
    • By Reed_Richards 7th Jul 18, 7:02 AM
    • 98 Posts
    • 31 Thanks
    Reed_Richards
    ...If the money is gone, its gone, but Im going to put up a fight for it! Its Dads money and he thought he would be helping my sister and I out by an investment and Im angry at the thought that people would potentially take advantage....
    Originally posted by Mrs_Frog
    You are quite right to be angry and I applaud your intention to fight for the money. But please don't let this delay the probate application. I really think it shouldn't, particularly if the estate is below the IHT threshold whether or not you can recover the 20,000. Update your solicitor about your lack of progress; I feel sure she will agree to proceed with the probate.
    Reed
    • Malthusian
    • By Malthusian 9th Jul 18, 9:20 AM
    • 4,337 Posts
    • 6,841 Thanks
    Malthusian
    If the money is gone, its gone, but Im going to put up a fight for it!
    Originally posted by Mrs_Frog
    Fight for it by all means, but I doubt your Dad would have wanted you to throw good money after bad. The money is almost certainly gone.

    That is an assumption, but unregulated ultra-high-risk investment + vulnerable client + lack of contact or valuation statements from unregulated investment scheme = safe assumption.

    As IHT is not an issue your solicitor should be gently encouraging you to write it off instead of racking up more costs.

    Also to not respond to family and a solicitor is rude and arrogant in my mind!
    Scammers are only polite when you're offering them money.

    Have you checked whether chargeback or a section 75 claim is possible?
    • Mrs_Frog
    • By Mrs_Frog 16th Jul 18, 3:16 PM
    • 11 Posts
    • 12 Thanks
    Mrs_Frog
    To those that provided advice on this, thank you so very much, both on the open forum and within the DMs.

    Long story short, my sister and I have decided to ask the solicitor to write off this investment with a value of zero for probate, so that process can continue unabated. Of course I understand that there will be proviso that if anything can be recovered then it will be referred back to the solicitor and dealt with accordingly, as in divided between the two of us equally. However, we are of the opinion that the money is gone, there has been no contact from this damn organisation at all. I have asked the solicitor if there is a chance that the payments were made via credit card, which means we may get something, but if I am honest, I am not sure how Dad paid for it, and all the paperwork is with the solicitor.

    What we have decided to do is to report them to the police, and/or Action Fraud, as it is looking highly likely that this was an unsolicited approach from them, with a high pressure sales tactic. We may not get anything back, but we may be able to warn people about this company in particular.

    Thanks again MSEers!
    • Terry Towelling
    • By Terry Towelling 16th Jul 18, 5:02 PM
    • 210 Posts
    • 107 Thanks
    Terry Towelling
    If they did take direct payment by credit card (not via paypal or the like) then there will be plenty of others out there with potentially the same issue. If you can find this out you have at least a sniff of a chance of recovery via S75 of the CCA. That said, there would have to be a breach of contract/misrepresentation involved somewhere and I really don't know what the legal position is when one party to the contract has died.

    If you do uncover something then don't let the credit card company fob you off by saying it's too old to assist you. It may be too late for them to 'charge back' but as long as it is less than 6 years old (I believe) a S75 claim can still be made. It's just the fact that your father is deceased that may hold things back and you still need to be able to demonstrate a breach of contract/misrepresentation by the seller.

    Best of Luck.
    • Mrs_Frog
    • By Mrs_Frog 16th Jul 18, 6:39 PM
    • 11 Posts
    • 12 Thanks
    Mrs_Frog
    Quick update - so in a fit of indignation, I put up a couple of anonymous reviews of the company and filled in the online form for CAB/consumer stuff/trading standards....they are the only actual reviews up...!!!8230;

    Less than 2 hours later I get a phone call, from a 'no caller id' and it was them....I need to let them have a scan of Dad's death certificate and then they will sort out the valuation......so they say.....

    Apparently they had been on away and my messages have only just got through on email.

    Some may say coincidence. Some may not.
    • Reed_Richards
    • By Reed_Richards 17th Jul 18, 7:08 AM
    • 98 Posts
    • 31 Thanks
    Reed_Richards
    Normally whoever is taking care of the probate will supply (certified) copies of the Death Certificate to get a valuation and then, when probate is granted, a copy of the Letters of Administration to prove that they have the right to distribute the investment according to the will. Even if you are, finally, provided with a nominal valuation, that's not to say you will get any of that money back. But best of luck.
    Reed
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