Tang sues LA lawyer for libel over ‘fake’ DRC

Hong Kong’s former chief secretary Henry Tang has filed a lawsuit against LA lawyer Don Cornwell after he challenged the authenticity of DRC Tang put up for auction.

Henry Tang

Simon Tam of Christie’s leads the Henry Tang auction held in Hong Kong this March

As reported by the Wine Spectator, Tang filed the writ at Hong Kong’s High Court on 17 September.

Tang is suing Cornwell for libel, alleging that a letter he wrote to Christie’s questioning three lots of Burgundy consigned by Tang to a two-day sale put on by the auction house in Hong Kong last March “injured” his reputation.

Cornwell wrote to both Christie’s and the FBI before the auction stating that three lots in the sale were “problematic”. He also raised the subject on online wine message board Wine Berserkers.

One of the disputed lots: 1978 DRC Montrachet

One of the disputed lots: 1978 DRC Montrachet

The lots included a Methuselah of 1971 La Tâche, a three-bottle lot of 1959 Romanée-Conti and a case of 1978 Montrachet.

“It has come to my attention that Mr Tang purchased a number of the bottles in his collection from Richard Torin of Clarets in Santa Barbara. I am told that Mr Torin has at all material times been the single largest customer of Antonio Castanos.

“Mr Castanos acted as a wholesaler for wines supplied by Rudy Kurniawan. That should give Christie’s and Mr Tang considerable concern especially as there are relatively few photographs in your catalog,” Cornwell said in a statement to the auction house.

Indonesian-born wine collector Rudy Kurniawan is due to stand trail in New York in December two counts of wine fraud.

“Henry Tang wanted a public apology from me. But that would be an acknowledgment of fault, and I believe what I wrote is correct,” Cornwell told the Wine Spectator.

“I did nothing wrong and I certainly do not think that Henry Tang deliberately engaged in selling counterfeit wines,” he added.

Tang hit out at the claims at the time, dubbing them “unsubstantiated and false”.

“It has come to my attention that there were some allegations against a tiny part of my wine collection that was put to Christie’s for auction recently.

“These allegations are totally unsubstantiated and false. It is hardly convincing for anyone who purports to know wine just by looking at the labels without going into their provenance,” Tang said in a statement.

The La Tâche was withdrawn from the auction as “a precautionary measure”. The two-day auction brought in US$6.2 million.

CORRECTION: This article was updated on 7 November to clarify comments made by Don Cornwell regarding the origin of a number of the wines put up for sale at the Christie’s auction.

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