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Published:  23 July, 2008

By Jim Budd

Nigel O'Mara, a director of wine brokers In Vino Veritas, appears to have been defrauded of around 1.8 million by two French companies. In 2001, O'Mara ordered a range of Bordeaux 2000s from LCDV, a company in the outskirts of Troyes run by Jean-Marc Grybowsky, and from La Companie des Chteaux, based in St Tropez and run by a Jean-Marie Bellew. The wines, which included a substantial proportion of first growths, shouldhave been delivered in June. No wine has arrived and it looks as though none ever will. It is believed that the replacement value is now around 2.2 million. Bellew has disappeared from 3 Avenue Paul Roussel in St Tropez. He is reported to have moved briefly to an office at 1 Rue Charles Aubertin, Beaune, where he failed to pay the rent and, when the office was entered, it was full of unpaid bills. Bellew is known to have failed to fulfil orders for wines from a number of UK fine-wine brokers. The missing wines include various vintages of Romane-Conti and Ptrus, as well as Lafleur 1982. Although Grybowsky was contactable until Christmas, efforts by Harpers to phone him at LCDV's offices at 2 Rue Chapelle au B, 10120 Saint Andr Les Vergers have been unsuccessful. As O'Mara placed the orders in his name before In Vino Veritas Ltd was set up in April 2002, he has been forced into an IVA (Individual Voluntary Arrangement) and will be paying creditors back a small proportion of the debt over the next three years. The chief trade creditors are John Armit Wines Ltd (330,000) and L'Assemblage (210,000). The two companies have fulfilled their customers' orders by sourcing wines from elsewhere. In addition, two private individuals are owed a combined 750,000. With the 2003 en primeur campaign less than three months away, this will come as a nasty shock for the fine wine trade. It's been an expensive lesson to learn,' says Amanda Skinner of John Armit Wines. We will be much more rigorous in our checks in future.'