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Wine conmen strike again

A London merchant has become the third UK business victim this month of major wine theft, after fraudsters conned the firm out of almost £50,000-worth of stock.

Sebastien Woolf, CEO of Woolf Sung
Sebastien Woolf, CEO of Woolf Sung

Woolf Sung, which was founded in 2012 by ex-Rothschild employee Sebastian Woolf, is reported by the Evening Standard to have been approached by a conman pretending to be the chief executive of a City firm, who said he wanted to buy wine for a party.

In total he ordered 12-bottles of 1986 vintage wines from Domaine de la Romanée Conti, as well as a magnum of DRC Romanée Conti 1989, with a combined value of £49,800.

Although Woolf Sung has a policy of not releasing stock until funds have cleared, four days after payment had been received and the wines collected by courier, the company’s bank spotted the fraud and cancelled the payment.

Explaining how the fraud originally escaped notice, Woolf told the paper: “The payment was received via my bank – it did not come up as a cheque payment, so we released the wines. But they had a chequebook and somehow managed to make the cheque payment look like a bank transfer.”

When Woolf contacted the impersonated CEO directly, he confirmed that a recently ordered cheque book had failed to arrive.

The bank has since admitted its error and agreed to cover the cost of the bottles, which Woolf noted are individually numbered and will therefore be easy to identify if sold legitimately.

The theft follows two other audacious wine heists this month, both from restaurants rather than merchants. The first saw £11,500-worth of Cristal and Pétrus stolen from London’s Pied à Terre by conmen pretending to represent wealthy Arabs; the second involved an individual pretending to work for footballer Didier Drogba, which saw Midsummer House in Cambridge lose £28,000-worth of fine wine.

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