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Published:  23 July, 2008

By Jim Budd

On 23 January, the Netherlands Authority for the Financial Markets warned investors against trading in the shares of Ocean International Marketing BV and Seed International Ltd. Ocean, based in Rotterdam, does not have the necessary licence to deal in securities. The warning comes a week after Dutch fraud and tax authorities raided the Rotterdam offices of Ocean. Seed International has told Harpers that the raid, on 17 January, was the result of a false rumour that Ocean was about to vacate its offices. Ocean believes that the authorities were tipped off by a malicious phone call made by a disgruntled former employee. Seed International Ltd and Ocean International Marketing BV were set up in 1996. Ocean offered Seed's wine options initially in Champagne, Bordeaux and latterly in long-term Italian contracts. Harpers understands that American doctors have invested $160 million in Seed's wine options programme for a total value of $600 million. Last October, Seed agreed to allow AoW, part of Paradigm Holdings, to offer Seed's clients new and improved Italian contracts. AoW recently acquired The Wine Corporation, which was part of the Seed group. In a statement, Seed International said: Seed has been advised by its Dutch legal advisors that the statement is an opinion issued in the discretion of the authorities and does NOT constitute a formal decision or order by such authorities. It remains Seed's view that the sale of wine under the wine programme agreement does NOT constitute the sale of a security in ANY relevant jurisdiction.'