Whisky Focus - Scotch Whisky Industry Go After Scam Whisky Tycoon

Scotch Whisky Industry Go After Scam Whisky Tycoon


26th April 2017
The Scotch whisky industry goes after scam whisky tycoon.

Whisky entrepreneur or Scammer called Tofikuddin Ovaysi (Credit: TERNOPILLIVE.COM)

Scotland's whisky industry has gone to war with a mystery Whisky Tycoon who claims to represent many of the biggest brands in world spirits.

Major whisky companies such as Diageo, Pernod Ricard and William Grants & Sons are moving to challenge scores of firms set up in London to mimic their names.

In what politicians say is another symptom of Britain's lax and widely abused company registration system, a single entrepreneur called Tofikuddin Ovaysi has formed nearly 100 UK shell businesses cloning brands such as Balvenie, Macallan, Glenfiddich, Smirnoff and Bacardi.

Mr Ovaysi, who styles himself as the "baron of spirits", has also registered companies that on paper look like real divisions of Volvo and supermarkets Asda, Wal-Mart and Carrefour.

Some big brands have already succeeded in stripping several of Mr Ovaysi's firms of their cloned names but most remain live nearly a year after they were set up.

Owning the real companies he has mimicked would have made Mr Ovaysi, who claims to be Russian, one of the richest people on the planet.

The 33 year old was able to build his virtual empire with £10 registrations of 96 clone firms at the UK's public registry, Companies House, using a mailbox address in London.

Mr Ovaysi did not respond to written requests for comment at the virtual office he claimed to use in London or at a cloned Diageo email he used. Companies House said it did not check new registrations for

The Russian appears to have registered many of the companies last summer while living and working in Ukraine where he was wrongly reported to be the son of millionaire Vijay Mallya of India's United Breweries or UB Group, makers of Kingfisher beer.

Mr Ovaysi - in a ceremony described as a "burlesque show" by local media - last February opened what was understood to be the Ukrainian HQ of UB in the provincial city of Ternopil amid promises of hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars in investment.

After judging a local beauty contest, hosting lavish parties and mixing with local politicians, Mr Ovaysi quit Ternopil by September when his Ukrainian business, called UB Groupe rather than UB Group, was declared bankrupt.

Mr Ovaysi, while in Ternopil, also used Britain's Companies House to register a companies using the UB name, including United Breweries Group Limited. At the same time he registered registered more than 70 internet domains, almost all featuring the word Diageo, which is among firms moving against Mr Ovaysi.

A spokeswoman for the world's biggest whisky maker said: "Diageo are aware of the company and domain names registered by Mr Ovaysi and our legal counsel are working to address this activity."

A spokeswoman for Pernod Ricard's Paisley-based Chivas Brothers business said: "While we do not comment on individual cases, we can confirm we are aware of this matter. As is often the case with established global and luxury brands, people want to copy you. We are taking action on an on-going basis to protect our company name and tackle any abuse of our intellectual property if and when we find it."

Rosemary Gallagher, Scotch Whisky Association head of communications, said: "Scotch Whisky businesses, like all companies, need to be vigilant to potentially fraudulent activity. While this is a responsibility for individual businesses, part of the SWA’s role is to uphold the high quality reputation of the entire Scotch Whisky industry and we will continue to support our members as best we can."
 

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