Alleged wine fraudster Rudy Kurniawan has pleaded not guilty in a US court to a two-count indictment charging him with schemes to sell fake wines and defraud a finance company out of £2m.
In the dock: Rudy Kurniawan
Indonesian-born Kurniawan entered his plea in a federal court in New York yesterday after prosecutors filed a new indictment that updated existing charges against him.
During the session, judge Richard Berman set a tentative trial date of 9 September, though this is likely to be put backwards as important prosecution witnesses may not be able to addend at that time as it falls during the harvest.
“That’s the time like tax week for accountants, that’s their busy time,” lead prosecutor Jason Hernandez told AFP.
Kurniawan, 36, was brought into court wearing a beige detention center uniform. According to the Wine Spectator, he looked “thinner and paler” than usual.
The indictment against him reads: “Kurniawan rose to become one of the most prominent and prolific dealers in the US of purportedly rare and expensive wine.
“Turning his California home into a counterfeit wine laboratory, Kurniawan mixed and blended lower-priced wines so that they would mimic the taste and character of rare and far more expensive wines then created a finished product by sealing the bottles with corks and by outfitting the bottles with counterfeit wine labels.”
Evidence of fake labels and foils to be used against Kurniawan during the trial
Hernandez told the court that the jury would be shown hundreds of pieces of physical evidence, including Romanée-Conti labels for regular and large bottles.
Among the wines Kurniawan sold were a double-magnum of a fake 1947 Pétrus for £20,000 in 2005 and a bottle masquerading as 1934 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti for £8,500 in 2006.
Nicknamed “Dr Conti” and “Mr 47”, Kurniawan used the money to amass a collection of contemporary artwork, Patek Philippe watches, and a fleet of cars including a Lamborghini.
The new indictment also lists property that the government wants Kurniawan to forfeit, including the LA home he shares with his mother and a large house in Bel Air.
Kurniawan also stands to lose £500,000 in watches, an interest in a restaurant and a Burgundy vineyard.
Meanwhile, in a neighbouring court house, the final witness completed his testimony yesterday in wine collector Bill Koch’s civil lawsuit against fellow collector Eric Greenberg, which accuses Greenberg of selling fake wines to Koch.
According to the Wine Spectator, after the session had ended Koch hurried across the street to witness the Kurniawan hearing.
Lawyers are expected to make their closing arguments in the Koch vs. Greenberg case today before the jury is left to decide.
Koch also filed a wine fraud suit against Kurniawan in 2009, which is pending until the completion of his current trial.