‘Smoke and mirrors’ wine fraud could cost dealer 40 years in jail
HE WAS once the toast of the town, a wine dealer who became the “stuff of legends” because of an almost magical ability to procure the world’s finest vintages for the rich and famous.
But various clients will now be spluttering into their Burgundy after it emerged that much of the wine that 37-year-old Rudy Kurniawan sold them was fake, and concocted in his kitchen in California.
The magic was nothing more than “smoke and mirrors”, a prosecutor told his fraud trial in New York.
It was a scam that lasted for eight years and made Kurniawan at least $1.3 million (R13.46m), according to the prosecution, although some witnesses claimed they paid him more.
Billionaire entrepreneur, yachtsman and wine investor Bill Koch told the court he alone had paid the Indonesian-born dealer some $2.1m for 219 fake bottles.
He has also hired an expert to try to work out just how many of the 43 000 bottles of wine he owns are counterfeit.
Meanwhile, Kurniawan faces up to 40 years in prison for the fraud.
Collectors became suspicious when they noticed some labels had spelling errors or were for vintages that did not exist for the date given on the bottle. – The Independent