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Court asked to dismiss ‘Jefferson’ wine fraud case

German collector and dealer Hardy Rodenstock has asked a federal court in New York City to dismiss a lawsuit accusing him of fraud.

The alleged fraud is in connection with the purchase of Bordeaux attributed to Thomas Jefferson.

Rodenstock’s lawyers argued on 19 January that the suit brought by William I Koch, a Florida billionaire, is ‘wholly without merit.’

Rodenstock’s counsel, Alston & Bird, also maintains that the court lacks jurisdiction to hear the case.

Koch (pronounced ‘coke’) charges that four bottles he bought because Rodenstock attributed them to Jefferson, America’s third president, are fakes.

After more than a dozen bottles engraved ‘Th.J.’ purportedly turned up in 1985, Rodenstock said they had been found in a walled-up cellar in Paris, where Jefferson was minister to France.

Koch’s lawsuit, filed in August last year, arises from a 1784 and 1787 Château Lafite and a 1784 and 1787 Château Branne-Mouton (Mouton-Rothschild’s predecessor), which he bought in 1988.

The bottles originated from a cache Rodenstock said he bought. One bottle came from the Chicago Wine Company, the others from Farr Vintners in London.

Rodenstock’s argument to dismiss the case holds that ‘significantly’ Koch ‘fails to allege any direct sales or other commercial relationship’ between both men.

A spokesman for Koch said, ‘We will file our response before 16 February. Once that is done, it is in the judge’s court. If we prevail, and I am confident we will, then we will begin our discovery.’

Written by Howard G Goldberg in New York

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