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Cops Clueless in the Great Australian Wine Heist

Jun 30, 2016

(Wine-Searcher) - Police appeal to the public for help as some of Australia's finest wines go walkabout.

How do you lose $3.5 million worth of wine? Australian police don't know either.

In what is being described as "the mystery of the missing Grange", police and bank investigators are trying to track down a multimillion-dollar collection of top-notch Australian wine that has seemingly vanished into thin air as part of the fallout of a collapsing wine empire.

Former James Estate Wines boss David James is in hock to ANZ Bank for more than $8m and up to 300 wine collectors who trusted him with their GrangesHenschkes and Torbrecks are asking where their wine has gone. The New South Wales Police Force's Fraud and Cybercrime Squad has appealed to the public after launching Strike Force Farrington in March to find the missing wine, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

The collections were held under agreement by Wine Investment Services, one of a number of companies controlled or owned by Mr James until the collapse of his empire in 2013. As early as October 2013, liquidators McGrath Nicol warned that collectors' wine was held at facilities at Denman and Homebush, with wine owned by four James companies, and "determining the ownership of the wine will be a complex matter".

In a statement this week, Fraud and Cybercrime Squad commander acting Superintendent Matt Craft said that, while business assets were seized in 2013, a number of wine collections were not surrendered.

"Despite numerous further inquiries by owners, liquidators and local police, the wine was not located," he said.

Craft appealed to anyone who bought, or had been approached to buy, collectible or vintage wines including Penfolds Grange and various wines from Henschke, Torbreck, and Chris Ringland.

In the NSW Supreme Court last week, James suffered the latest in a long list of losses after abandoning a case against the ANZ Bank and receivers over disputed wine sales following the business collapse.

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