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Company director who duped wine investors sentenced

This news article was published more than a year ago. Some of the information may no longer be accurate.

Published: 15/07/2016

A director of a company that defrauded fine wine investors out of their wine collections was sentenced at Bristol Crown Court on Thursday 14 July.
Craig O’Driscoll, 32, of Oakbrook Close, Bromley near London pleaded guilty to the offences earlier this year at a hearing on April 11. He was given 16 months suspended sentence for two  years, 200 hours unpaid work and a three month curfew.

He was the director of a London based company called Ethical Elegance Ltd which traded fraudulently by telephoning people they knew had fine wine collections and largely offering them cash in return for those collections. No payments were received in return and most victims eventually received low value diamonds through the post from the company.

O’Driscoll has already pleaded guilty to a single charge of Fraudulent Trading covering the activities of the company during 2013, when it was alleged to have defrauded 14 known clients.

The case was investigated by South Gloucestershire Council’s Trading Standards team after a local resident from Filton made a complaint in September 2013. At the time Ethical Elegance Ltd was still trading, but later went into liquidation.

Further clients of Ethical Elegance Ltd were traced from around the country by Trading Standards officers. It emerged that the 14 clients were offered a total of £330,000 for their fine wine collections, which they had transferred to the company on the understanding that they would receive the stated money in due course. In one case a victim was offered over £85,000 for his fine wines.

Some victims were told by representatives of Ethical Elegance Ltd that they would be paid their money from the proceeds of sale of a diamond that the company had and they agreed to an “Asset Exchange Agreement” with O’Driscoll’s business, which clearly stated the figure they expected in return. However, soon after transferring their wine collections, the clients were informed of problems with the transaction. They all subsequently received a diamond or diamonds through standard post with no explanation from the company.

A diamond expert valued 13 diamonds on behalf  of Trading Standards that were still in existence,  which were calculated to be worth just short of £16,000.

The fine wines transferred to Ethical Elegance by its clients were quickly sold on by the company to two wine wholesalers, who bought the alcohol in good faith. Ethical Elegance generated around £175,000 from these sales in just four months of trading.

The case involved clients transferring high value wines like Chateau Lafite Rothschild 1996 and Petrus 2000 to the company which claimed to operate out of central London offices, but which turned out to be a virtual office.

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