‘Smoke and mir­rors’ wine fraud could cost dealer 40 years in jail

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - GOODMUSIC -

IAN JOHN­STON

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

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