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Published:  23 July, 2008

By Jim Budd

The offices of claret investment company, James Hewitt Associates Ltd, were closed by the DTI on Friday 13 September. The company sold wine as a minimum ten year investment, but with huge mark-ups. Last November it offered 1996 Chteau Latour at 4,408 a case, then available from Farr Vintners at 1,900. More recently it offered six bottles of 1997 Margaux for 1,312 when a full case could be bought from a London broker Robert Rolls for 760. Personally I wouldn't think of 1997s as a great investment,' said Stephen Mould of Sotheby's wine department. We have found 1997s very difficult to move in auction.' James Hewitt Associates was formed in June 2001 and started trading last autumn. Initially it operated from the same office in south London that had been previously used by Liquid Acquisitions, another wine investment scam, which was shut down in January 2002. Later James Hewitt Associates moved to 19a East Street, Bromley. Andrew Dunne, the major shareholder and company secretary of Liquid Acquisitions, is believed to have been behind James Hewitt Associates Ltd. I met Dunne at the West Wickham premises and saw him at the offices in East Street. The DTI presented a petition without notice to the High Court in London on 12 September and the Official Receiver was immediately appointed as provisional liquidator. The winding up petition will be heard in the High Court on 30 October. Concerned clients of James Hewitt Associates should either contact the Official Receiver (020 7215 5000) or Ray Pearson at London Bridge Vaults (020 7407 4422) where the wines are stored.