The arrest of Rudy Kurniawan on multiple charges of fraud is the result of years of evidence-gathering on the part of the Burgundy owner whose name is identified with one of the most notorious wine scandals of recent years.
Laurent Ponsot ‘found fakes everywhere’
The case against Rudy Kurniawan is that in 2008 he consigned at auction some 84 bottles purporting to be from Domaine Ponsot in Burgundy, including one from 1929, which was impossible as the estate did not begin bottling until 1934.
Since Februrary 2010, Laurent Ponsot of Domaine Ponsot has been working closely with the FBI team which arrested Kurniawan on 8 March.
In 2008 Ponsot had flown to New York to ensure that the counterfeit bottles of his family domaine’s Clos St Denis, listed in the Acker Merrall & Condit auction, did not appear. The fake wines had an estimated value of between US$600,000 and US$1.3m.
Ponsot also handed over evidence that led to Kurniawan’s arrest, including notes written by Kurniwan claiming that the fake wines were purchased from someone he named as ‘Pak Hendra’.
Kurniwan gave two contact numbers for this dealer, one of which was a fax number and the other a shopping mall.
According to Ponsot, the wine labelled as Domaine Ponsot was allegedly over €1m of inexpensive, pre-1980s Burgundy wine bought from negociants.
‘I wasn’t sure at first if Rudy was a victim or predator,’ said Ponsot. ‘But when he gave me those false phone numbers, I knew it was the latter.’
As part of his campaign against counterfeiting, Ponsot has been working to find out who possesses fake Burgundy and who sold it to them.
He said he has come across many fake Burgundies, including Domaine de la Romanee-Conti, Rousseau, Roumier and his own Domaine Ponsot in people’s cellars.
‘I found fakes everywhere, not just in Hong Kong or China but in Europe and in many American collectors’ cellars,’ he said.
Ponsot also spoke to European sommeliers who helped him identify people who requested and paid for empty bottles. He passed the information to relevant local police.
In China, especially in Guangdong province, empty fine wine bottles are worth US$50 per bottle or more, depending on the label.
Fraudulent wines are a serious worldwide problem, Ponsot said, adding, ‘I believe 80% of pre-1980 Burgundy sold at auction is fake.’
Written by Jeannie Cho Lee