The directors of defunct online wine exchange Uvine are facing a government investigation following its Web 1.0-style collapse in September.
Solicitors Howes Percival have been appointed by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to look into the conduct of the company, which entered administration with debts to its members totalling around £1.5m.
The investigation will determine whether the DTI should act to disqualify Uvine’s directors, while a separate enquiry will decide whether criminal proceedings should take place.
Uvine’s collapse, reminiscent of the dotcom bust of five years ago, came after the company racked up multi-million pound losses, partly due to the expense of the technology it was licensing.
According to joint administrator Graham Wolloff, money owed to its clients may have been used to service its previous debts.
When it entered administration, subscribers using the exchange to buy and sell wine were owed over £1m, as well as around £500,000 used for en primeur purchases. There's more on this sorry Uvine saga here.
Chairman Christopher Burr declined to comment, but told decanter.com earlier this month:
“In absolutely no way should it be implied that I was withdrawing cash from the business for my own purposes or benefit.”
“A very large part of the withdrawals were to repay loans for Uvine guaranteed by me, and the lawyers' fees associated with this. Other completely legitimate withdrawals from my loan account balance were in lieu of non claimable business expenses, and minimal salary, as I have not drawn any salary from Uvine for over two years.”
Uvine’s creditors are due to meet on Monday.