The sole director and shareholder of Westminster Fine Wines Ltd, 36-year-old Jeff Berrill, has been banned from acting as a UK director for 12 years. The ban will run until March 2028.
Wine investment company, Westminster Fine Wines Ltd, was founded in October 2011 and was based in a serviced office in Victoria. Berrill was based in Northampton.
It went into liquidation in February 2014 with Nedim Ailyan of Abbott Fielding Ltd, based in Sidcup, appointed as liquidator.
Berrill gave the estimated deficicency as £232,326. £231,066 was owed to trade and expense customers with a further £2000 to Barclays Bank.
Berrill took £335,720 from investors. However, Ailyan found that no wine had been bought and that Berrill and Westminster Fine Wines Ltd had no account at any UK bonded warehouse.
One unfortunate investor was persuaded to buy 39 cases of Château Cos d’Estournel from various vintages ranging from 2003 to 2010. Initially he was told falsely that these wines were stored at London City Bond. Later he was told that they were at Octavian. Berrill had never bought these wines.
An unexplained sum of £244,443 was taken out of Westminster Fine Wines Ltd bank accounts. This included £61,854 paid to restaurants, pubs, hotels, supermarkets and other retail outlets and payments to Berrill of £43,562.
On 6th November 2015 Berrill pleaded guilty at Blackfriars Crown Court to five counts of dishonestly making false representations. He was sentenced to 12 months in prison suspended for 24 months.
Cheryl Lambert, chief investigator at the Insolvency Service, said about the case:
‘Mr Berrill misled investors and did not purchase the wine for which they had paid at least £194,885. Investors’ money was spent and records were not maintained to account for how the funds were disposed of, which could have enabled them to recover some of the money.’
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