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Where are Rudy Kurniawan’s missing fake wines?

The most striking part of state prosecutors' sentencing report on Rudy Kurniawan was not their call for the convicted wine fraudster to get 14 years in prison, but their assertion that millions of dollars of his wine remains in private cellars.

Some of the known fake wines submitted as evidence in Kurniawan’s New York trial, in December 2013.

Kurniawan would still be concocting fake versions of fine wines in his Los Angeles kitchen sink had it not been for his arrest, state prosecutors argued in a strongly worded pre-sentencing report submitted to the US federal court for the Southern District of New York this week.

That claim obviously can’t be proved, but it has become increasingly clear in this case that the self-styled Dr Conti was so prolific his presence on the fine wine market is unlikely to be contained by the physical confines of a prison cell.   

‘The effects of this crime are likely to be felt for decades as fake bottles of wine made by Kurniawan continue to exchange hands through wine auctions and direct sales,’ prosecutors said.

While their aim is clearly to present Kurniawan’s crimes in the starkest of lights, there is evidence to back up this claim.

Kurniawan kept awful records, and often none at all. But, ‘to date, the government has been able to establish that Kurniawan sold at least $20.73m in fake wine that has not been returned for a refund’, prosecutors said.

The true total, they added, is almost certainly higher and probably tops $30m.

‘There are at least two of Kurniawan’s victims who each purchased several millions of dollars of rare wine from Kurniawan who have not provided the government with any assessment or estimate of the fake wines they bought from Kurniawan’.

The Indoneisan national also sold ‘massive amounts’ of wine in private sales, they added.

Inevitably, many of the fakes emanating from Kurniawan’s not-so-magic cellar are likely to have been drunk already.

But, the prosecution’s statements do lend weight to those in the wine trade – such as authenticity expert Maureen Downey – who have long cautioned that Kurniawan’s wines continue to lurk in dark corners of the wine world.

With Kurniawan’s sentencing scheduled for 29 May, locating his wines, and knowing how to spot them should they re-emerge in the market, is going to be the real hard work in years to come.

Written by Chris Mercer

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