The directors of three companies that misled customers and sold diamonds at grossly inflated prices have been disqualified for a total of 41 years following an investigation by The Insolvency Service.
Charles James Sewell (age 25), the director of Cohen Stones Ltd, Edward Lionel Philips (61), the director of Imperial Assets Solutions Ltd and Liam OKeeffe (24), the director of Tudor Global Ltd, all resident in London, gave undertakings to the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills not to be a director of a limited company for periods of 14 years, 14 years and 13 years respectively.
Customers are estimated to have lost in excess of 3.5 million after being misled in to believing that they were purchasing diamonds at a true market value. Investigators found that the companies in fact sold diamonds at up to twenty times the price they had been purchased for. Sales staff also made claims about increases in the future value of diamonds, telling customers that their investments would rise in value by up to 80% per year.
Mr OKeefe also diverted funds beyond the reach of creditors shortly before placing Tudor Global Ltd in to voluntary liquidation. Between 24 May 2013 and 13 June 2013 customers purchasing diamonds from Tudor Global Ltd paid over sums totaling 317,800 to a third party. When the company went in to liquidation on 26 June 2013, Mr OKeefe declared that the company had no assets. Following the liquidation the money was paid in to the bank account of another company of which Mr OKeefe was a director and the funds were dissipated.
Commenting on the disqualifications, Ken Beasley of the Insolvency Services Public Interest Unit, said:
The customers of Tudor Global Ltd, Imperial Asset Solutions Ltd and Cohen Stones Ltd were often elderly and vulnerable. As directors, Messrs OKeefe, Philips and Sewell were responsible for investors being deliberately misled about the value of the diamonds they were purchasing and in doing so they have caused significant financial losses to individuals. I would urge members of the public to be wary of unsolicited sales calls promising unrealistic returns on investments.
The periods of disqualification demonstrate that The Insolvency Service will use all of the powers available to remove dishonest and culpable directors from the market place. Details will also be passed to the prosecuting authorities where appropriate.