How scammers cloned one of Britain’s biggest companies with outrageous ease – The Mirror

by MoneySaverExpert

The multi-billion pound company behind Captain Morgan rum is the latest to fall victim to corporate piracy, in a scam that shames Companies House.

A newly formed company called Diageo Partners Limited seems to be passing itself off as the genuine Diageo, whose brands also include Smirnoff vodka, Johnnie Walker whisky, Gordon’s gin and Guinness.

The scam begins with emails that purport to be from Martin Lewis’s Money Saving Expert, recommending investing in Diageo, getting up to 3.5% interest with bonds that supposedly come with Financial Services Compensation Scheme protection.

But the messages from, have no connection with Money Saving Expert or the genuine Diageo.

According to Companies House, Diageo Partners Ltd was incorporated last October with one director, 36-year-old Adem Bessim.

But Companies House does not verify the information that companies file, so for all I know the real Adem Bessim, like the real Diageo, is nothing to do with this sham.

I do know that Diageo Partners has filed a fake registered office address.

It claims to be based at a building in Westerham, Kent, run by office rental firm Black Eagle Estates.

“They’re not at our office, we don’t know anything about them apart from the fact that we get mail for them,” Black Eagle Estates told me.

The website boasts of being “a prestigious wine and whiskey investment company” but its contacts page has an 0800 contact number which is unobtainable and my emails to it have not been answered.

Emails from Diageo Partners used Money Saving Expert branding, above, and genuine Diageo PLC images, below

I did hear back from its marketing partner, Nxt Generation, run by 38-year-old Johnathan Pach.

Nxt Generation is taking the credit, if that’s the right word, for helping Diageo Partners drum up investors by developing its website and social media pages and sending marketing emails.

“With a solid 4-month investment lead generation drive, we were proud to announce that our client achieved over £420,000 in company revenue,” Nxt Generation boasts in the case studies section of its website.

Adem Bessim wrote on Trustpilot: “I couldn’t be more happier”.

Nxt Generation is now backtracking, Mr Pach telling me: “We can confirm Diageo Partners Ltd was our client and the services outlined in the case study on our website were provided.

“However, the figure of £420,000 is unsubstantiated.

“This is a figure Diageo Partners mentioned once but we have seen no evidence that proves this was ever achieved.”

Which does not explain why Nxt Generation stated the £420,000 income as fact on its website.

I asked Mr Pach if he had any concerns that Diageo Partners was passing itself off as the real Diageo, and he answered: “We are in the digital creative business and whilst we do run promotion campaigns on behalf of clients, we believe it’s up to clients to ensure their business does what they tell us it does and do. I personally know brands like Johnnie Walker and Guinness, but before I Googled ‘Diageo PLC’ I didn’t know that Diageo PLC was the owner.”

And what about the marketing emails using Money Saving Expert and Diageo PLC branding?

“The email inbox is fully within Diageo Partners’ control,” he said.

“We have no access, control or oversight over it. Our work ends after this inbox receives the leads we generate.”

As for describing Diageo Partners as a prestigious wine and whiskey (with an “e”) company, his excuse was: “This is our client’s claim. This is what we were told during our meeting with Diageo Partners. This is what we were instructed to promote.”

He added that Nxt Generation no longer works with the company and: “Nxt Generation does not engage with prospecting, soliciting, or offering of any investment opportunities.”

A video on the Diageo Partners website has an embedded 0208 phone number different to the one on its contacts page. The Financial Conduct Authority warned about this number in January, saying it is being used by scammers cloning finance giant Wells Fargo Securities International.

And yesterday the watchdog published another alert, saying the same number is connected to a clone of Chase bank.

Another recently formed clone company is UK Aberdeen Asset Management Ltd, incorporated on 4 January.

The real Aberdeen Asset Management merged with Standard Life and has now branded itself as abrdn – a stupid name, but that doesn’t mean they deserve to be pirated like this.

The newly incorporated company has a single director who has filed to Companies House a correspondence address in Jiangsu Province, China.

A spokesperson for abrdn said: “We are aware of this particular clone company and we have advised the Financial Conduct Authority and made formal application to the Company Names Tribunal.”

This tribunal takes a minimum of three months to make a ruling – longer if there’s an objection. During that time impersonation crooks can make hay.

Savings expert and scam campaigner Mark Taber says reform of Companies House is urgently needed.

“Criminals are setting up companies clearly impersonating well-known financial firms and household names with impunity,” he said.

“In many cases the identities of innocent members of the public are used as directors. Companies House does not do any screening, checking or verification and says it has no capability to do so.

“Companies House reform backed up by proper funding of enforcement cannot come soon enough.’”

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