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Bottom of the barrel for wine investors

A California-based wine store is under investigation for selling millions in futures contracts in a Ponzi-like scheme.

FROM the outside, the Premier Cru wine store in Berkeley, California, looked like a traditional, upscale wine-seller. The 29,000-square-foot store was lined with tapestries, wood shelves and a "rare wine room" stocked with trophy Bordeaux and Burgundies.

Yet, Premier Cru didn't just sell wine off the shelves. According to court documents, it built a global, multimillion-dollar trading empire selling futures contracts for French wine to thousands of rich collectors and investors over the Internet.

Now investigators and customers are looking into whether Premier Cru's futures business was also used to fund the largest Ponzi scheme in the wine world - with some of the biggest victims coming from China....

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