Wine consultant Gil Lempert-Schwarz has abandoned a defamation lawsuit over allegations that he knowingly sold counterfeit wines - but he re-iterated that he was wrongly accused.
Gil Lempert-Schwarz, chairman of the Wine Institute of Las Vegas and founder of Hong Kong auction house Dragon 8, had filed the lawsuit in response to allegations from wine authentication expert Maureen Downey that he was knowingly engaged in selling counterfeit wines.
The claims were made both on the Wine Berserkers online forum and also, reportedly, at a wine event.
But, in a statement emailed to Decanter.com at the weekend, Lempert-Schwarz said a dismissal of the lawsuit against Downey would be filed ‘without prejudice’.
He added: ‘When proceeding with a serious defamation case of this nature, one has to weigh the costs of the process, the considerable time involved and the potential award for the damages caused.
‘Upon our investigation, we find it likely that zero funds are available to the defendant to pay for any judgment against her.
‘We have therefore chosen not to pursue this matter any further at this point in time. However, we do not waver in our original claims of defamation and we remain firmly committed to our business and our clients.’
The accusations and lawsuit are the latest stages in an intermittent war of words between Lempert-Schwarz and California-based Downey, of Chai Consulting and the recently launched winefraud.com website.
Downey previously told Decanter.com that she had insurance and was prepared to defend herself against the defamation suit, if it was served. ‘I can support my statements,’ she said.
She also questioned whether the lawsuit was a ‘PR stunt’.