Failed wine entrepreneur David James’ legal battles take another ugly turn

October 19, 2017
By Alana House

Failed wine entrepreneur David James faced the Downing Centre Local Court on Thursday after being arrested earlier this month and charged with stalking and intimidation, plus two counts of attempting to pervert the course of justice.

The court heard that he intimidated and harassed his estranged wife Trudy to divulge her involvement in a police investigation. It was also revealed he is living with his elderly mother, collecting Centrelink benefits and is involved “six or seven other” court cases in the supreme, federal, family and local courts.

James had been hoping to get his strict bail conditions relaxed and have the case remain in Sydney. His counsel was successful in preventing the case moving to Newcastle, however the judge rejected an application to remove a curfew that requires him to be at his mother’s house each night from 11pm to 6am.

James’ companies, including Wine Investment Services, collapsed in 2013, leading to the sale of assets including James Estate Wines at Pokolbin. Police are still investigating what happened to $5 million worth of missing wine that was being held in trust for more than 300 owners by Wine Investment Services. The collectable and vintage wines included Penfolds Grange, Henschke and Torbreck.

James is also facing an application for an apprehended violence order being sought by police on behalf of his estranged wife Trudy James.

Trudy James is currently fighting the forced sale – due to a divorce settlement – of her house in the Newcastle suburb of Whitebridge (below), which was placed under contract earlier this week for about half of its $8 million original asking price. A mystery buyer has exchanged contracts for $4.2million on the property, just $200,000 more than what James bought it for more than 15 years ago.

James is questioning how millions of dollars could be wiped off the property’s sale price since it went on the market last year.

James told Fairfax Media the house had been “devalued”, with buyers led to believe it was a “fire sale”. She said confidential Supreme Court orders, detailing her marriage split, were attached to the back of sale contracts and handed out to prospective buyers, including her neighbours. 

Fairfax also noted: “In another twist in the saga, it’s understood Mr James and his mother, Irene, made an eleventh-hour bid on Monday to secure the property for $4.5 million.” 

James no stranger to the court room

In July 2016, David James lost an appeal against a Supreme Court ruling that he had no power to appoint himself trustee of his late father-in-law’s estate.

A NSW court rejected his appeal against a judge’s ruling that he had staged “several coups d’etat” to become trustee of his father-in-law’s substantial estate.

James was ordered to pay costs after the NSW Court of Appeal agreed with an earlier ruling that there was “not one shred of evidence to justify Mr James in interfering in the way that he did” with his father-in-law’s estate.

In June 2013 James appointed himself a trustee after removing his mother-in-law, Zeta Douglas, and sister-in-law as trustees from Stan Douglas’s estate of more than $2.4 million.

According to Justice Robert McDougall, James then caused “chaos” in 2015 by repeating an attempt to remove his sister-in-law as trustee and appointing himself, after an “unreasonable misreading” of a NSW Supreme Court decision that he had no power to do so.

Justice  McDougall found James was “a person who was willing to say anything that might suit him if he thinks it will advance the case he is seeking to put”.

James also lost a Supreme Court case in 2012 after the Australian Tax Office pursued him for almost $4.3 million in tax, interest and penalties.


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