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London court hears brother and sister accused of £4.5m wine fraud

A 38-year-old man, his sister and two others have been charged with two counts of conspiracy to defraud and one count of money laundering.

Investors were ‘defrauded’ of £4.5m through two companies run by Daniel Snelling (pictured), Southwark Crown Court in London has heard.

The first company was Nouveau World Wines, which operated between 2007 and 2009, offering investments in Australian wines.

When Nouveau World Wines disappeared in 2009, Finbow Wines was set up using investors’ money from Nouveau.

Finbow offered short-term profits in a five-month deal claiming to ship containers of cheap Italian wines to China for the Chinese New Year, to India, and to South Africa for the football World Cup.

Investors were told that wines bought for £2 a bottle including transport could be sold in China for £3 producing a rapid profit. Investors were offered a buy back guarantee if the wine was unsold after 12 months. The guarantee proved to be worthless.

Also in the dock at Southwark Crown Court are Daniel’s sister, 35-year old Dina Snelling, who acted as office manager, Rebecca McDonald, the accounts manager, and Simon Dempsey, the director of Finbow Wines Ltd and Dina Snelling’s boyfriend. Dempsey was not involved in Nouveau.

The court was told of two sets of invoices for Nouveau World Wines Ltd. The first set was drawn up over the period that the company was active, while the second ‘bogus’ set was produced on a single day 2009, when the Companies Investigation Branch started looking at the company.

These invoices were designed to show that the company had bought more wine than it actually had, the court heard.

Both companies failed to buy all the wine purchased by investors. Finbow bought £34,000 worth of Italian wine, while taking some £2m from investors.

Substantial cash payments were made to the defendants, disguised by false invoices.

Prosecutor Julian Christopher QC said one Finbow investor lost £120,000 and another £67,000.

The defendants have pleaded not guilty.

The case opened last week and is expected to last around 10 weeks, with the prosecution’s case being completed by early June.

Written by Jim Budd

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