Labourer-turned-fine-wine director disqualified for 11 years

20 November, 2015

Jonothan Piper, sole director of Embassy Wine UK Ltd, a company that traded in fine wine investments, has been disqualified as a director for 11 years.

The disqualification follows an investigation by the Insolvency Service into the company’s activities between its launch by Piper on June 28, 2011 and December 3, 2014, when it was wound up on public interest grounds.

Embassy bought and sold fine wine from individuals in the UK. At the date of its winding, the company had no known assets.

Piper had no experience in the wine industry, having previously been a labourer.

The company claimed on its website that investors could see 30% returns on individual bottles purchased, and that it offered a diverse portfolio of wines for purchase, storage and onward sale on behalf of its customers.

The court found that those claims were baseless.

Embassy failed to pay promised returns to customers who had paid the company directly for wine or who had transferred their wine portfolios to be managed and sold on by the company, the court said in its ruling.

The company also took in substantial deposits from customers, on the false basis that those deposits were required to lodge wines in bonded warehouses or upfront fees in order to sell on wine portfolios.

No deposits and no upfront fees had been returned to any known customers.

In a number of instances, customers – including one who was 94 years old – had paid sums of over £30,000 to the company.

The court found that the company had been run solely for the benefit of Piper, its only director, who used its bank accounts as effectively his own.

Customers are owed at least £382,167.

Paul Titherington, official receiver in the public interest unit, said: “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.”

Piper did not co-operate with the investigation, and was found to have lied to investigators on a number of matters, including the number of company bank accounts there had been.

London-born Piper, now aged 29, cannot promote, manage, or be a director of a limited company until 2026.

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