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Wine fraud: Ex-director guilty of million pound con

A banned company director has been found guilty on 10 charges after a court heard how he tricked fine wine investors out of £1m and spent the proceeds on luxury holidays.

Spyros Constantinos, 44, was this week found guilty at the Old Bailey in London of defrauding clients who he persuaded to invest in wine.

Constantinos was convicted on 10 counts that included running a fraudulent business, intent to defraud and acting as a company director while disqualified. His trial lasted three weeks and was brought by Tower Hamlets Trading Standards.

Barrister Pauline Thompson QC, prosecuting, told the court that Constantinos stole £1m from investors. Instead of buying wine he spent the money on holidays, including a trip to New York, and other luxuries.

The case is the latest of wider clampdown on wine fraud in the UK, with several other fine wine investment companies having faced court in the last few years.

One of Constantinos’s ploys was to offer a guaranteed return on wine after a year. The rate of return varied from 8.9% to up to 50%

The jury heard from investors who bought wine and were fobbed off with unfulfilled promises of cheques in the post. Their money was moved into accounts for Constantinos’ personal use.

Michael Phelps, managing director of EHD bond warehouse, where Constantinos stored what wine he did buy, told the court that he had never seen documents supposedly from EHD sent to investors. This included one that guaranteed that wine was EHD’s care.

Following the collapse the Bordeaux Wine Consultants Ltd, Constantinos’ first wine investment company, he was banned from being a UK company director from 2008 to 2017. However, he acted as company director for the Premier Bordeaux Wine Company and Classic Bordeaux Wines, which was based in Marbella.

Constantinos also used false names of those working for well known wine merchants, the court heard.

Update 26/06/2015 17:15 BST: Content updated to remove the name of a specific individual who felt unfairly associated with the case.

See Decanter.com stories on previous wine fraud cases:

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