The head of a wine investment firm that conned people out of at least £382,000 has been disqualified as a director for 11 years by the UK's Insolvency Service.
Jonothan Piper, director of fake wine investment firm Embassy Wine UK Ltd, was banned for ‘causing or failing to prevent the company from selling wine to customers which it failed to provide, purchasing wine from customers which it failed to pay them for, and charging fees to customers for which no service was provided’.
Piper, 29, was disqualified with effect from Tuesday (17 November), meaning he cannot promote, manage or be a director of a limited UK company until 2026.
According to an Insolvency Service investigation, Embassy – set up in 2011 – operated a scheme designed to deprive investors of their savings by persuading them to invest in wine, or to sell their fine wine through the company.
The firm, which was wound up in the public interest by the High Court in December 2014, ended up owing customers at least £382,167 – and quite possibly more.
‘The amount owed to customers may in fact be higher than that revealed by our investigations, as the company failed to keep adequate records, and there may therefore be additional customers I am presently unaware of,’ said Paul Titherington, official receiver in the Public Interest Unit of the Insolvency Service.
According to the earlier High Court hearing, investors had been told by Embassy that they could see returns of 30% on their wines.
One customer, a 94-year-old, had paid over £30,000 to the company, the court was told, but Embassy’s claims were ‘baseless’ and, at the time of its winding-up, it had no known assets.