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Kurniawan’ DRC prompts fresh lawsuit

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A Singapore-based investment firm has filed a lawsuit in the US accusing some members of the trade of complicity in selling it over US$2 million worth of “fake” Domaine de la Romanée-Conti.

The firm in question, Hrothgar Investments, purchased 132 bottles of the famous Burgundian wine in 2011 for US$2.45m from three members of the trade.

As reported by the Wine Spectator, the lawsuit accuses former head of Vanquish wine auctions, Richard Brierly; CEO of Bordeaux wine firm Cep’Age, Xavier Nebout and Missouri-based wine dealer and warehouse operator, Marc Lazar, of conspiring with Rudy Kurniawan to knowingly sell fake bottles of DRC.

The suit, filed in New York on 19 May, states: “The defendants were fully aware that the bottles of wine they were selling were fakes that had been specifically engineered by a notorious counterfeiter, Rudy Kurniawan, to create the appearance of having the characteristics of real DRC wine, but which were actually forged bottles containing concoctions of lower quality wine.”

 

The writ claims that Kurniawan sent the bottles of DRC, including 44 magnums and one Jeroboam, from vintages ranging from 1961-1990 to New York using the alias ‘Dar Saputra’ – the name of one of his brothers. The wines were presented to Hrothgar, however, as coming from the cellar of famous collector Don Stott. An email from Kurniawan to an unknown party appears to suggest Brierly and Lazar would help authenticate the wines.

The lawsuit alleged: “The Defendants, each well-known in the industry, agreed to assist Kurniawan with, upon information and belief, full knowledge that his wine was counterfeit and that they were collaborating with a counterfeiter to misrepresent the pedigree and provenance of the counterfeit wine they were marketing and selling.” An inspection of the wine by Geoffrey Troy, a well-known Burgundy retailer in New York, on behalf of Hrothgar was apparently attended by Nebout, Brierly and another broker who has also been accused of being part of the conspiracy.

The British businessman behind Hrothgar, Stephen Diggle, apparently grew concerned about the authenticity of the wines he had bought a few months later when 20 lots of DRC were withdrawn from a joint Spectrum-Vanquish auction in London. Brierly was the auctioneer at the sale in his role as head of Vanquish at that time.

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