Tony Hetherington is Financial Mail on Sunday’s ace investigator, fighting readers corners, revealing the truth that lies behind closed doors and winning victories for those who have been left out-of-pocket. Find out how to contact him below.
D.H. writes: I am writing about my situation with Global Wine Exchange Limited. I have two cases of wine which cost me £6,000 early last year, sold to me on the promise that the wine would be sold at a profit last July.
That wine has not been sold. GWE then told me that if I bought two more cases, they would sell all four.
I declined, and the company broke off communication, saying it would not handle the sale of the original two cases.
Promise: The Chateau D’Yquem vineyard in France and a bottle of the 1999 wine
You have told me you were cold-called by Global Wine Exchange (GWE), and last March you paid £2,700 for a case of Chateau D’Yquem 1999 after being told that GWE would sell this for you at the end of July for a very precise £3,218.
And in May, you paid £3,500 for a case of the same wine, 1996 vintage, which would also be sold in July.
But as July approached, GWE told you the sale had fallen through. However, if you bought two more cases, all four would be included in a sale to take place in September.
Sensibly, you declined. And worryingly, the bonded warehouse that was supposed to store your wine then told you it held nothing in your name.
I asked GWE about this. I also asked the company’s owner, Adrian Loftman, to explain how his business could be just one year old according to Companies House, yet claim on its website to have more than ten years of experience in the fine wine market.
If this was his personal track record, where did he work to gain this experience, I wondered.
Finally, I found that GWE had been advertising for junior brokers – salesmen in fact – expected to make up to 300 phone calls a day. So wasn’t Loftman simply running a telesales operation, cold-calling people like you who have registered to say they want no such calls?
He replied: ‘I will put my hands up to the fact it seems a vigorous technique to drum up sales, and since liaising with the Information Commissioner’s Office and taking advice from them, we have massively changed how we operate with regard to the volume of calls made.’
The case of wine that cost a reader £3,500 was on public sale for £2,250 (stock image)
Loftman agreed that you had bought wine on the promise that it would quickly be sold. He blamed a private buyer who had changed his mind. But he denies that GWE will no longer act for you.
And your wine has now been delivered to the warehouse, with Loftman telling me: ‘I admit our delivery of stock to our clients has been somewhat pressured and a little slower.’ The wine ‘does take time to arrive from France’, he explained.
There was no comment or explanation though about where Loftman or anyone else at his company gained their knowledge of fine wines or their investment value.
I found that the wine you bought for £2,700 could be had for £2,300 without any difficulty. And the case that cost you £3,500 was on public sale for £2,250. The chances of making a profit would seem to be remote in the extreme.
I put this to GWE and the company gave you a refund of £1,650. And then things turned very interesting.
Under pressure from GWE, you told me you expected the whole situation to be resolved in your favour, and you added: ‘I have to instruct you not to use any statements that I have made during our exchanges or that I approached you for help.’
You added that you felt bad about this. I explained that you could honestly tell Adrian Loftman that you had demanded my silence, and that I had ignored you.
After all, if I let companies censor what I write, then all they would have to do to stifle one complaint would be to pay the reader, leaving other potential complainants out in the cold.
Have there been other complaints? Oh yes. Loftman says the vast majority of his customers are happy, and that to publish your letter would be ‘extremely unfair and inaccurate and we would challenge it strongly’.
He added: ‘If you do publish an article or warning about Global Wine Exchange, we will be challenging it legally and we are prepared to take action against yourself and your newspaper.’
Well, thank you for the heads-up Adrian, see you in court.
Mastercard in my name is a fraud
S.B. writes: I received a welcome letter addressed to me and containing a Mastercard and account details, all from Cashplus.
I had not applied for these, so I called Cashplus but they said they could do nothing unless I reported this to Action Fraud and obtained a crime number.
I did this, though Action Fraud told me that as nobody had lost anything, there had not been any fraud.
And a few days after I gave the crime number to Cashplus, I received a letter from them, asking for a clutch of identity documents.
Sinister: Whoever applied to open the current account with Cashplus and obtain a Mastercard used basic information about S.B.’s personal circumstances
Whoever applied to open the current account with Cashplus and obtain a Mastercard used basic information about your personal circumstances.
Cashplus told me it had used normal banking procedures to confirm your details, but those checks would, of course, have been into things like your appearance on the electoral register, or your personal credit record.
They would not have proved that the application actually came from you.
Cashplus told me: ‘Mr B being alerted to the impersonation attempt is a result of these procedures working as they should.’
As I see it though, the Mastercard was issued with no proof of identity, after which the only safety net was that the card went to your address.
If you lived at a multi-occupation address, it would not have been hard for the fraudster to grab the card. I put this to Cashplus and was told this would not be easy, as the culprit ‘would need to illegally steal or access their neighbour’s personal information’.
It’s unthinkable, of course, that a card fraudster might steal personal information.
This ‘asset recovery’ firm is scam No 2
S.M. writes: I was taken in by a scam involving Redthorne Realisations Limited. Now I have been called by Richard Thorpe, of Asset Recovery Consultants Limited, but I feel strongly that this is a follow-on scam.
Scam: According to an email from Richard Thorpe, his company has been appointed as the liquidator of Redthorne Realisations, which was wound up by the High Court in 2018
According to an email from Richard Thorpe, his company has been appointed as the liquidator of Redthorne Realisations, which was wound up by the High Court in 2018.
The company’s assets have been seized, he says, and you can be compensated if you supply copies of your passport, card statements, and so on, as proof of identity.
You are also expected to pay 15 per cent ‘for the liquidator to begin realisation of assets’. And that, of course, is the scam.
The real liquidator of Redthorne Realisations is the Official Receiver, whose office confirmed to me that Asset Recovery Consultants has absolutely no involvement in this. However, there really is a company called Asset Recovery Consultants.
It is based in Swindon, and cheekily, the fraudster calling himself Thorpe has used its company details and a Swindon telephone number in his email.
The boss of the genuine company, Stephen Hales, told me: ‘I can confirm we do not employ Richard Thorpe, and I have never heard of him.’
My own enquiries suggest that calls to the fake firm’s Swindon number – 01793 230406 – have been diverted offshore.
If you believe you are the victim of financial wrongdoing, write to Tony Hetherington at Financial Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TS or email email@example.com. Because of the high volume of enquiries, personal replies cannot be given. Please send only copies of original documents, which we regret cannot be returned.
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