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DTI puts cork in wine racket

Three directors of two vintage wine companies who ripped off customers with bogus investments have been banned by the High Court from being company directors following a successful prosecution by the Department of Trade and Industry.

Liquid Acquisitions Lim- ited directors Andrew Michael Dunne and Thomas Sloan of Bromley, Kent have been disqualified for 10 years each.

James Hewitt Associates Limited chief James Hewitt, also from Bromley has been banned from business for seven years.

Both firms were investment wine companies which promised clients up to 40 per cent returns on investments but clients ended up paying three times the value of some wines, says the DTI.

The DTI says the firms claimed the wine was bought direct from Bordeaux but it was from a merchant and was marked up as much as 500 per cent.

In 2001, James Hewitt Associates was reported to be selling a case of Chateau Latour 1996 for 4,408 when other traders were offering the same product at 1,900.

Liquid’s directors were found guilty of deceitful and dishonest conduct of business and Hewitt was found guilty of deliberate misrepresentation and acting dishonestly.

Liquid and James Hewitt Associates were wound up on January 30, 2002 and October 30, 2002 respectively, following DTI petitions.

Payments of 97,000 were made to Dunne’s girlfriend and to Sloan following the presentation of the winding-up pet- ition, says the DTI.

A DTI spokesman says: “Both firms were incorporated through Companies House but these types of investments do not need to be regulated.”

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