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‘Criminal conduct’ at Uvine suspected

Investigators into the Uvine collapse suspect criminal conduct, decanter.com has learned.

Administrator Graham Wolloff has already reported the situation to the Department for Trade and Industry, ‘as I am obliged to do where criminal conduct is suspected.’

Wolloff is putting together a rescue plan for the fine wine exchange, which went into administration at the end of September with £2m debts, ‘but if that does not come about then … there are claims to be made against the directors,’ he wrote in an email.

Although unable to give precise figures, Wolloff said losses on clients’ wine bought or sold on their behalf by Uvine may run into six figures.

The Amphora Fine Wine Fund PLC, based in Cayman Islands, is Uvine’s major creditor followed by HM Revenue and Customs.

Uvine’s former chairman Christopher Burr MW was a director of Cardinal Partners Ltd, which managed Amphora. He devoted at least 25% of his time to running the fund.

Although he was declared personally bankrupt on 29 June 2006, Burr has yet to resign this directorship. He did not resign as a director of Uvine until 18 September.

Bankrupts are disqualified from holding directorships and it is not known when Burr informed his fellow directors, who are based in New York, Tokyo and Hong Kong, of his bankruptcy.

Excluding Amphora the amount owed by Uvine to its clients, whose wine was bought or sold, also appears to run to six figures – precise details are not yet available.

It has also emerged that Uvine failed to pass on to Bordeaux negociants monies that their clients had paid for Bordeaux en primeur. decanter.com understands that this is mainly for 2003 but there are also some 2005s. Again a precise figure is not available.

The administrator is negotiating to sell Uvine as a going concern. ‘I am actively in discussion with more than one party and hope to know something definite [within a week],’ he told decanter.com.

At the time of writing it has not been possible to contact Christopher Burr.

Written by Jim Budd

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