TONY HETHERINGTON: Raise a glass! Your £27k is safe from dodgy wine firm

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TONY HETHERINGTON: Raise a glass! You are lucky and your £27k is safe from dodgy wine firm

M.G. writes: I am trying to retrieve £27,000 which I invested in wine with a company called BWC in January.   I have not received my wine, and I am being given the runaround. I want my investment returned as it is in breach of contract.

You have been very lucky. You have now got your money back. But a huge question mark hangs over what has happened to the wine you already bought – or thought you had bought. 

And that question mark is almost as huge as the one that hangs over BWC itself.

There are lots of companies with BWC in their name, so let me be clear that in this case the initials stand for the Bordeaux Wine Company, which has used addresses in Grosvenor Gardens and more recently in Cavendish Place, both in Central London. 

And this is where things get complicated.

Anyone using a business name that is not their own name or the name of a properly registered limited company, must reveal their identity so customers know who they are dealing with

Anyone using a business name that is not their own name or the name of a properly registered limited company, must reveal their identity so customers know who they are dealing with

The people behind this wine investment venture have come up with a variety of names for their business. Sometimes they call themselves BWC Management & Consulting, and sometimes they tack the word ‘Partners’ on to this. At other times, it’s BWC Management.

But their official documents, such as the certificates confirming your wine investments, fail to show exactly who you are dealing with. And this is illegal. 

Anyone using a business name that is not their own name or the name of a properly registered limited company, must reveal their identity so customers know who they are dealing with.

And it gets worse. According to BWC’s website, under the Data Protection Act, customers’ privacy is in the hands of BWC Management. This is false. 

Records held by the Information Commissioner’s Office identify the data controller as a company called Management & Consulting Partners Unlimited, run by Boington Anthony Grant. And Mr Grant is well known to me.

Almost 20 years ago, he was a salesman for a scam wine investment firm called City Vintners, where he worked with a colleague named Freddie Achom. 

City Vintners was closed down by the High Court for ripping off its customers, but by the time it closed its doors, the dodgy duo had already been convicted of a completely separate fraud involving charging up-front fees for non-existent EU grants. They were both jailed for a year.

The pair were released in 2001 and immediately set up their own wine scam, called Boington & Fredericks. The High Court shut it down within months, with debts of £640,000, and Achom and Grant were banned for years from acting as directors of any company.

Our reader was trying to retrieve £27,000 which they  invested in a wine company called BWC

Our reader was trying to retrieve £27,000 which they  invested in a wine company called BWC 

Since then, Achom has reinvented himself. His personal website says: ‘Freddie Achom is the founder and chairman of Rosemont Group, an international private investment group of companies focused on financial services, luxury goods and services, hospitality, renewable energy and digital technology.’ And under the heading ‘Portfolio’, his website bears the logo of BWC.

Part of his personal reinvention has been to define himself as one of the country’s leading black businessmen. In this role, Achom has attended receptions with then Prime Minister David Cameron and Prince Charles. For heaven’s sake – does nobody bother to vet the guests attending these events?

But Achom’s rise has not been without one major hiccup. 

The ban on him running any company ran from 2002 to 2013. He ignored it. From 2004 onwards, he controlled APW Asset Management, yet another wine scam. Insolvency Service investigators found almost 20,000 bottles of wine were ‘missing’. 

The company collapsed, and in 2016 Achom was back in court for breaching the directorship ban. He was given a six-month suspended jail sentence and ordered to repay £945,000 or face five years in prison.

I contacted BWC about your missing £27,000. Two weeks later, without any statement or explanation, it repaid the lot. 

But who controls the wine you already bought – worth thousands of pounds on paper – remains a mystery. BWC will not say, and staff at the bonded warehouse it uses say they have been told that BWC is in administration or liquidation. This is not true, though it may be very soon.

Another reader has also fallen victim to Achom and Grant’s latest scheme, so I shall be revealing more about them soon. Meanwhile, perhaps it is time again for the police or the Insolvency Service to dust off their old files.

HEARING AID FIRM GOES SILENT OVER REFUND 

J.M. writes: My mother-in-law is 84. She replied to a marketing flyer about hearing aids from Hearing Solutions UK of Bristol. 

They offered a 14-day trial, and if aids were not suitable they could be returned for a refund. She paid £2,490 and the aids were delivered. They did not suit her and the company collected them after one week. 

Since then she has contacted Hearing Solutions UK numerous times about the refund and been told they will call back, but they never do. I tried too, with the same result.

I asked the company why your mother-in-law had not been repaid. Stephen Dymond, of Hearing Solutions UK, told me: ‘We have recently changed card merchant provider, which has resulted in unforeseen delays when processing a customer’s refund. 

‘We are now having to refund customers by cheque rather than by card, which unfortunately has led to a backlog.’ 

You have confirmed that your mother- in-law has now received the cheque. She has banked it and the cash has arrived without any problem. Good.

WHY ARE WE GETTING BRITISH GAS BILLS? 

J.B. writes: My wife and I have been plagued with bills from British Gas for electricity. They say we owe £1,034. But we have never been supplied with electricity by British Gas.

The demands were addressed to you at your home, but I noticed that they refer to ‘business electricity’. 

You told me you are 81 and your wife is not much younger, so without wanting to be ageist, I did ask British Gas what business they thought you ran. It turned out that a nearby business has a similar address, but no known tenant at the premises. 

When records for that address were searched, your address came up and was used by mistake. A spokesperson told me: ‘We are sorry that Mr B received bills from British Gas Business when he is not a customer.’

The bills have been scrapped and you and your wife have received an apology and a bunch of flowers.

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 tony.hetherington@mailonsunday.co.uk

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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