Staffordshire Police (the force is based in the West Midlands region of England) are asking for investors to come forward after a 25-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of fraud by false representation and conspiracy to defraud.
He has been released on bail until April as enquiries continue. A spokeswoman for the regional force told BeverageDaily.com this morning that it is investigating the fraud despite the company's London location, since a Staffordshire company contacted Staffordshire Police in December after "falling foul" of Le Bordeaux Wines.
Police say the company was launched online in October 2012 and ran for over a year, it was registered as a UK company with Companies House in December 2012.
‘Promises that don’t disappear…’
Through its now defunct website Le Bordeaux Wines offered investment opportunities in the trading of fine wines – either by investing in the company or selling the company wine for resale.
The company’s Facebook page is still active, and stresses the need – ironically, given the circumstances, “to know that your investment doesn’t hold any nasty surprises…promises that disappear the moment you sign the cheque”.
But a police investigation established that the company sold non-existent wines to investors and people who sold wine through the company did not get paid.
The Staffordshire Police spokeswoman said the force's initial inquiries showed that 20-30 people and businesses invested up to £1m (£1.37m) from places as far afield as Europe and Hong Kong. "We need to trace these people or businesses," she said.
DC Chris Pope, investigating officer, said in a statement: “I would like to hear from anyone who has invested in this company, or bought wine from this company.
“No matter how much money has been lost it is vital that all those who invested come forward.”
‘Shady from the start’ – Industry verdict
Fears regarding the company appear to have surfaced in mid-December when one investor in Le Bordeaux Wines wrote in an Invest Drinks blog post that they were scared they’d been scammed.
An anonymous respondent replied: “I work in the industry and Le Bordeaux Wines made quite a name for themselves in a short space of time…offering wines they couldn’t possibly have had as well as serial lies about how long they’ve traded for, etc.
“To me personally, they name dropped suppliers of ‘millions of pounds’ worth of stock, many of whom I know well and all of which confirmed back to me that they’d never purchased a single item from them. Shady from the start…”
Asked if Staffordshire Police commonly investigate this kind of online fraud involving wine, and whether such crime was on the rise, the spokeswoman said: "The force is committed to investigating all crimes, whatever form they take, that are reported to us."