A London court has heard how pensioners were among hundreds of customers allegedly misled into investing in virtually worthless casks of whisky.

On trial on three counts of fraudulent trading is Stephen Jupe, a founder and director of SSI Ltd, trading as Marshall Wineries.

Glossy brochures backed by a high-pressure telesales team promised a return of 18% per annum as well as claiming that ‘the price of whisky is unrelated to economic conditions’ and ‘there are compelling financial reasons that make whisky a very lucrative investment.’

Jupe sold hogsheads (300l barrels) of Grandtully single malt whisky at £950 (€1,400) and sherry butts (600-650l) at £1750 (€2,589). But there was no Grandtully Distillery: it was just another of Jupe’s companies. Instead the whisky came from the Speyside Distillery in Kingussie.

Between August 1993 and December 1996 SSI turned over more than £4m (€5.9m), before going bust in December 1996.

Jupe immediately started trading again using a ‘phoenix’ company called Marshall Wineries Ltd. Many of Jupe’s later customers never received their whisky as he failed to pay Speyside for it.

Jupe was first exposed in Spring 1996 in a television programme by Decanter columnist Andrew Jefford. Jupe blamed his financial problems on adverse media comment.

The trial at Southwark Crown Court is expected to last three months.

€1 = US$1.27

Written by JIm Budd