Koch testifies at Kurniawan trial

On day five of the trial of alleged wine fraudster Rudy Kurniawan, billionaire wine collector Bill Koch took to the witness stand to testify against Kurniawan.

Billionaire wine collector Bill Koch

The CEO of Oxbox Carbon told the jury in New York on Friday that some 219 bottles of Burgundy that he paid US$2.1m for can be tracked back to Kurniawan.

Koch said that in January 2006, he bought a number of fake bottles at an auction called “THE cellar” of wines provided in the main by Kurniawan.

“I got conned. I got cheated. No one likes to be conned or cheated,” Koch told the jury.

Koch testified that around 1% of his 43,000-bottle cellar has been confirmed as fake, though the value of the bottles accounts for 25% of his collection.

Koch has been on a six-year crusade against counterfeit wine that has led to several lawsuits.

This April, Koch won a legal victory over internet entrepreneur Eric Greenberg in a lawsuit over 24 fake bottles of wine and received US$379,000 in damages to cover the cost of his purchases plus $1,000 per bottle of wine.

Retired New York lawyer Douglas Barzelay also took the witness stand on Friday to testify that he alerted Laurent Ponsot to the fake bottles of Domaine Ponsot advertised in an Acker Merrall & Condit catalogue for the 2008 auction.

LA restaurateur Antonio Castanos also testified on the same day, telling the court that he consigned wines belonging to Kurniawan several times in 2006.

Castanos, owner of Italian restaurant Guido’s, confirmed to the court that Kurniawan had asked him not to use his name in connection with the wines.

The defence has portrayed Indonesian-born Kurniawan as an “outsider” keen to belong to a group of rich, successful fine wine lovers in the US.

The 37-year-old, who has been living illegally in the US for a decade, faces up to 40 years in jail if convicted.

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