Wine Scams, Whisky Investment Fraud,
Brandy Boiler Rooms, Drinks Deceptions
Bank Gets Bombed on Wine Scam Scandal
Barclays bank has been sucked into a legal battle brought by hundreds
of Americans who claim they were defrauded in a $20m investment scam.
The High Court in London has ordered the bank to pay compensation
to investors after some of the allegedly stolen money passed through
a Barclays account in the UK.
Barclays denies it is to blame and is appealing the decision.
The case relates to an investment scheme marketed to US citizens,
who were invited by Cayman Islands-based Architects of Wine (AOW)
to subscribe to a fund investing in the international wine market.
The scheme was not licensed by US financial regulators and investors
claim they were defrauded by AOW, which allegedly funnelled their
money into foreign accounts.
The fund's Cayman operations were shut down after the US authorities
issued an alert about its activities in 2004. But AOW continued to
use its Barclays Bank account to transfer investors' money.
That account has since been emptied and investors have accused Barclays
of negligent conduct for allowing the alleged fraudsters to use its
services despite the US regulatory action.
At the High Court, Mr Justice Steel found in favour of the investors.
How much Barclays will have to pay in compensation has not yet been
determined, but investors are pressing for $1.3m, which represents
the amount of money that AOW channelled through its Barclays account.
No criminal proceedings have yet been brought against AOW, or its
apparent owner, an Australian citizen called Robert Middlemiss. But
in his judgment Steel said the 'inevitable inference' was that investors
had been treated 'fraudulently'.
Seamus Andrew, lawyer for the investors, said the court victory
would help pay for legal efforts to recover funds elsewhere in the
Barclays said it was appealing but declined to comment further.
The Observer - UK