Diamond ‘investment’ company shut down
Empire Diamonds Ltd, a London-based company which made false and misleading statements in persuading members of the public to invest in coloured diamonds, has been wound up in the High Court following an investigation by the Insolvency Service.
The company sold diamonds by way of a telesales operation, cold-calling members of the public whose details were obtained from purchased data lists. The investigation found that:
- the company’s promotional literature claimed a rate of return on investment of 15-25% per annum
- these claims of investment growth were made to customers in circumstances where the company had already marked-up the diamonds on cost price by between 142% and 1289%
- those customers who subsequently had their diamonds independently valued stated that they have been considerably overcharged. For example, one client was charged £11,850 but his purchase was independently valued at £1,352
- aggregate sales were £187,538, representing a mark-up of £146,053 on an aggregate cost price of £41,485
- falsified customer testimonials were displayed on the company’s website
- the company solicited investment from some customers on the basis that it would sell their existing diamonds, but then failed to fulfil this promise
- the company operated with a lack of transparency as to ownership and control
Commenting on the case, Colin Cronin, Investigation Supervisor said:
Empire Diamonds Ltd obtained clients and made sales by making misleading, false and/or unfounded statements to them as to value of the diamonds and returns. As a consequence clients paid the company an exorbitant and unjustified mark up on the cost price of the diamonds.
These winding-up proceedings show that the Insolvency Service will take firm action against companies which mislead the public in this way.
The London Diamond Bourse has published advice with the objective of preventing the public falling foul of boiler room scams purporting to sell highly lucrative investment diamonds. I would encourage anyone who is approached by way of cold call and offered diamonds to refer to this advice before making any purchase.
Notes to editors
Empire Diamonds Ltd – company registration number 08100706 - was incorporated on 12 June 2012. The company’s registered office since 23 July 2013 has been at 68 Lombard Street, London, EC3V 9LJ. The registered office prior to this was at Hillhead Cottage, Cheddon Fitzpaine, Taunton, TA2 8JZ.
The petition to wind-up Empire Diamonds Ltd was presented under s124A of the Insolvency Act 1986 on 4 December 2015. The company was wound up on 1 February 2016 and the Official Receiver has been appointed as liquidator.
Company Investigations, part of the Insolvency Service, uses powers under the Companies Act 1985 to conduct confidential fact-finding investigations into the activities of live limited companies in the UK on behalf of the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS). Further information about live company investigations is available.
The Insolvency Service administers the insolvency regime, investigating all compulsory liquidations and individual insolvencies (bankruptcies) through the Official Receiver to establish why they became insolvent. It may also use powers under the Companies Act 1985 to conduct confidential fact-finding investigations into the activities of live limited companies in the UK. In addition, the agency authorises and regulates the insolvency profession, deals with disqualification of directors in corporate failures, assesses and pays statutory entitlement to redundancy payments when an employer cannot or will not pay employees, provides banking and investment services for bankruptcy and liquidation estate funds and advises ministers and other government departments on insolvency law and practice.
Further information about the work of the Insolvency Service, and how to complain about financial misconduct, is available.
The London Diamond Bourse and the Insolvency Service have recently issued advice for potential investors.
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Published: 5 February 2016
From: The Insolvency Service