Romanée-Conti blackmailer found dead

  • Thursday 29 July 2010

A man awaiting trial for blackmailing Domaine de la Romanée-Conti by threatening to poison the estate’s vines has been found dead in his prison cell.

Aubert de Villaine

Officials at the jail in Dijon, Burgundy, said the man, who has not been named, hanged himself last Friday.

A man awaiting trial for blackmailing Domaine de la Romanée-Conti by threatening to poison the estate’s vines has been found dead in his prison cell.

Officials at the jail in Dijon, Burgundy, said the man, who has not been named, hanged himself last Friday.

His son who was arrested at the same time, will stand trial later this year.

The men were arrested in February this year during a sting operation after they had demanded $1m ransom from Romanée-Conti owner Aubert de Villaine (pictured).

‘They claimed that if we did not pay they would poison the vines,' Villaine said after the the operation was revealed by local newspaper Le Bien Public.

Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, which produces on average 4,000 bottles a year is one of the world’s most revered wines. Aubert de Villaine is Decanter’s Man of the Year 2010.

Villaine said the estate began receiving a series of threatening letters in January, including a detailed plan of the 1.8ha vineyard with a targeted section marked out for poisoning.

Shortly afterwards, two vines were found with their roots affected by a chemical substance.

Police were alerted and the two men were arrested in February after picking up a fake ransom payment in a cemetery close to the village of Romanée-Vosnes.

The dead man, described as aged in his 40s and domiciled in the northern French department of the Marne, had a criminal record for theft.

He had studied wine-growing for two years at an agricultural college in nearby Beaune, but Villaine has said he had no connections with Romanée-Conti.

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