Press release

Duped investors find diamonds aren’t forever - Directors banned for 41 years

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.

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Charles James Sewell (age 25), the director of Cohen Stones Ltd, Edward Lionel Philips (61), the director of Imperial Assets Solutions Ltd and Liam O’Keeffe (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 O’Keefe 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 O’Keefe 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 O’Keefe was a director and the funds were dissipated.

Commenting on the disqualifications, Ken Beasley of the Insolvency Service’s Public Interest Unit, said:

The customer’s of Tudor Global Ltd, Imperial Asset Solutions Ltd and Cohen Stones Ltd were often elderly and vulnerable. As directors, Messrs O’Keefe, 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.

Notes to editors

Charles James Sewell is of London and his date of birth is 28 March 1990.

Edward Lionel Philips is of London and his date of birth is 18 December 1953.

Liam O’Keefe is London and his date of birth is 19 July 1991.

Cohen Stones Limited

Cohen Stones Limited (“Cohen”) - Company number 08333442 - was incorporated as a private company on 17 December 2012. The registered office of the company was situated at 147-157 St John Street, London, EC1V 4PW the company also traded from premises at that address.

Cohen was placed into voluntary liquidation on 21 February 2014. There were no assets and an estimated deficiency to creditors of £821,524.

Mr Sewell gave an undertaking on 27 April 2015 to the Secretary of State not to be a director for 14 years. The undertaking has been accepted and the period of disqualification commenced on 21 May 2015.

The matters of unfitness included in the disqualification undertaking were that between 17 December 2012 and 21 February 2014 Charles James Sewell caused Cohen Stones Limited (Cohen) to make representations to its customers regarding the value and investment potential of diamonds which it sold, causing losses to its customers totalling £719,597 in that:

  • Cohen purchased diamonds from a supplier and marked them up by between 510% and 1,007% before selling them on to customers
  • Cohen informed customers the diamonds were worth the purchase price
  • Cohen made representations to customers that the diamonds would increase in value by 4%-20% per year
  • A sample of the diamonds valued shows the diamonds were worth between 4% and 13% of the price paid to Cohen
  • Following the purchase, the diamonds were held in a Freeport on behalf of customers thereby incurring no VAT. As the customers would have to pay VAT at 20% on the purchase price to recover their diamonds it would not be economically viable to recover the diamonds
  • Cohen’s customers have lost £719,597 whilst Cohen made a gross profit of £626,487

Imperial Assets Solutions Limited

Imperial Assets Solutions Limited (Imperial) – Company Number 08517311 - was incorporated as a private company on 7 May 2013. The registered office of the company was situated at 145-157 St John Street, London, EC1V 4PW, the company also traded from premises at that address.

Imperial was placed into voluntary liquidation on 20 February 2014. There were no assets and an estimated deficiency to creditors of £1,405,460.

Mr Phillips gave an undertaking on 15 May 2015 to the Secretary of State not to be a director for 14 years. The undertaking has been accepted and the period of disqualification commenced on 8 June 2015.

The matters of unfitness included in the disqualification undertaking were that between May 2013 and 20 February 2014 Edward Lionel Phillips caused Imperial Assets Solutions Limited (Imperial) to make misrepresentations to its customers regarding the value and investment potential of diamonds which it sold, causing losses to its customers totalling £1,384,117, in that:

  • Imperial purchased diamonds from a supplier and marked them up by between 229% and 870% before selling them on to customers
  • Imperial informed customers the diamonds were worth the purchase price
  • Imperial made representations to customers that the diamonds would increase in value by 8%-80% per year
  • A sample of the diamonds valued shows the diamonds were worth between 5% and 13% of the price paid to Imperial
  • Following the purchase, the diamonds were held in a Freeport on behalf of customers thereby incurring no VAT. As the customers would have to pay VAT at 20% on the purchase price to recover their diamonds it would not be economically viable to recover the diamonds
  • Imperial’s customers have lost at least £1,384,177 whilst Imperial made a gross profit of at least £1,110,377

Tudor Global Limited

Tudor Global Limited (Tudor) – Company Number 08254566 - was incorporated as a private company on 16 October 2012. The registered office of the company was situated at 10th 11th and 14th Floors, 88 Wood Street, London, EC2 7RS the company also traded from premises at that address.

Tudor was placed into voluntary liquidation on 26 June 2013. There were no assets and an estimated deficiency to creditors of £1,646,709.

Mr O’Keeffe gave an undertaking on 19 June 2013 to the Secretary of State not to be a director for 13 years. The undertaking has been accepted and the period of disqualification commenced on 10 July 2015.

The matters of unfitness included in the disqualification undertaking were that between 16 October 2012 and 26 June 2013 Liam O’Keeffe caused Tudor Global Limited (Tudor) to trade in a manner that was detrimental to customers in that:

  • Tudor purchased diamonds from a supplier and marked them up by between 475% and 1084% before selling them on to customers
  • Tudor informed customers the diamonds were worth the purchase price
  • Tudor made representations to customers that the diamonds would increase in value by 8%-30% per year
  • A sample of the diamonds valued shows the diamonds were worth between 3.16% and 12.87% of the price paid to Tudor
  • Following the purchase, the diamonds were held in a Freeport on behalf of customers thereby incurring no VAT. As the customers would have to pay VAT at 20% on the purchase price to recover their diamonds it would not be economically viable to recover the diamonds
  • Tudor’s customers have lost £1,612,929 whilst Tudor made a gross profit of £1,362,428

A disqualification order has the effect that without specific permission of a court, a person with a disqualification cannot:

  • act as a director of a company
  • take part, directly or indirectly, in the promotion, formation or management of a company or limited liability partnership
  • be a receiver of a company’s property

In addition that person cannot act as an insolvency practitioner and there are many other restrictions are placed on disqualified directors by other regulations.

Disqualification undertakings are the administrative equivalent of a disqualification order but do not involve court proceedings.

Further information on director disqualifications and restrictions 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.

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Published 24 July 2015