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Uvine: prosecutions to follow?

Uvine directors could face criminal prosecution on nine counts of financial misconduct following a recent administrators’ report to creditors.

In the report, which they will pass on to the prosecutions section of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the administrators said there could be ‘potential claims against the directors for misfeasance, preference, wrongful trading and even fraudulent trading if criminal intent could be shown.’

The universal fine wine exchange went into administration on 26 September 2006, with debts believed to be in the region of £2m, and leaving some 50-60 customers left unsure as to whether they would ever be paid.

Among the nine ‘misconduct issues’ cited are en primeur monies not passed onto Bordeaux merchants, wine apparently sold without permission, and the likelihood that uvine traded while insolvent.

The administrators also said that during 2006 it appeared that Uvine director Christopher Burr had withdrawn funds from the company ‘that fully repaid his loan to the company (£68,000) in preference to other creditors.

‘In addition,’ said the report, ‘by 31 August 2006 it appears that he had an overdrawn loan account of £102,000.’

Burr denies that he was withdrawing cash from the business for his own purposes or benefit.

‘A very large part of the withdrawals were to repay loans for Uvine guaranteed by me, and the lawyers fees associated with this,’ he said. ‘Other legitimate withdrawals from my loan account balance were in lieu of non-claimable business expenses, and minimal salary, as I have not drawn any salary from Uvine for over two years.’

Since it was set up in October 1999 Uvine racked up a loss of £9.98m. Nearly £3m was lost within the year, and losses continued to accumulate before the company went into administration. Clients are owed over £1m with an additional £551,810 owed on 2003 and 2005 en primeur purchases.

The joint administrators, Graham Wolloff and John Munn, are hoping to sell the company and there are two interested parties. One is Trieste Direct Investments in which Uvine directors Paul Rogers and Jonathan Perratt have an interest, while the other is from an unnamed and unconnected party. A creditors’ meeting has been fixed for 4 December.

Written by Jim Budd

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