The offer of inclusion in a directory – made via an official-looking form claiming an affiliation with a trade event or association – comes with a €3600 sting in the small print.
Recent letters sent by The International Fairs Directory are similar to those issued in previous years by a firm named Expo Guide. Dominic Strickland of Michael German Antiques of Kensington Church Street told ATG he signed and returned the form as he believed the directory was linked with LAPADA.
Buried in the document was a clause that the signer agreed to pay €1200 annually for three years. He has since received invoices and threats of court action.
Hundreds of unsuspecting dealers and auctioneers were targeted by this fraud between the mid-1990s and 2012 when, following numerous complaints, the European Commission launched an investigation. No one has been taken to court for non-payment and the advice is to ignore all correspondence.
Previously the companies were based in various addresses in Europe but are now operating from Mexico and (in this case) Uruguay.