The US Justice Department has accused Rudy Kurniawan of attempting to suppress evidence and has filed a motion defending its search of the alleged wine fraudster's home.
Justice Department lawyers said in a court memorandum that an initial ‘sweep’ of Kurniawan’s house was justified, despite having not received an official search warrant at the time.
Kurniawan, who was indicted on charges of selling counterfeit fine wine, as well as mail and wire fraud in May, told a US District Court in New York that FBI officers entered his home illegally and violated his Fourth Amendment rights.
In a filing to the court, justice officials defended their action based on precedent, the possibility of other people in the house destroying evidence and because the agents on the scene acted in good faith.
Justice officials said that, while conducting a ‘protective sweep’ just inside Kurniawan’s house, one agent saw ‘bags of corks, bags of wine labels, wax used to seal corks, empty bottles, bottles without labels, and other counterfeiting tools’.
The arrest of the wine expert, known as ‘Dr Conti’ for his in-depth knowledge of Domaine de la Romanee Conti, sent shockwaves through the fine wine sector and auction houses earlier this year.
A key allegation in the case against Kurniawan is that, in 2008, he tried to sell 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.
The bottles were withdrawn from the auction, run by Acker Merrall and Condit, at the request of the domaine.
Written by Chris Mercer