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Sunday 26 October 2014

Decade in prison ‘not enough’ for Kurniawan

27th August, 2014 by Lucy Shaw

Burgundian winemaker Laurent Ponsot, who helped to bring Rudy Kurniawan to trial, believes 10 years in prison is “not enough” for the convicted wine fraudster.

Laurent Ponsot is to release a book about Kurniawan and his accomplices later this year

Laurent Ponsot is to release a book about Rudy Kurniawan and his accomplices later this year

As reported by The Telegraph, Ponsot, who testified during the trial in New York last December, feels the record sentence should have been doubled to 20 years.

“Twenty years would have been more satisfactory considering how he has sullied the image and integrity of Burgundy, Bordeaux and beyond,” Ponsot told The Telegraph.

“Kurniawan gave the entire planet the impression that falsifying wine can make you a lot of money, so the sentence had to be very, very severe,” he added.

In April 2008, 97 bottles of Domaine Ponsot belonging to Kurniawan were withdrawn at the last minute by John Kapon from an Acker auction at Cru restaurant in New York due to “inconsistencies”.

Rudy Kurniawan was sentenced to 10 years in prison for fraud

Among the lots was a bottle of 1929 Ponsot Clos de la Roche, a grand cru the domaine didn’t produce under its own label until 1934, and 38 bottles of Ponsot Clos Saint-Denis dating back to 1945, despite the estate not making the wine until 1982.

Ponsot had flown in from France especially for the auction, believing he needed to be in the room in order to prevent their sale.

Ponsot set up a lunch meeting with Kurniawan the day after the halted auction, who dodged the issue about where he had bought the fake bottles.

“I knew he was a crook from the moment I set eyes on him. He was ill at ease, stared at his plate and wouldn’t meet my gaze,” Ponsot told The Telegraph.

The 59-year-old proprietor however admitted that he felt “a bit of glory” at the fact that Kurniawan deemed his wines worthy of counterfeiting.

“You don’t copy Swatch. You copy Breitling and Rolex,” he told Vanity Fair magazine, though conceded that the fraud felt like “an attack on the terroir and spirit of Burgundy.”

John Kapon of Acker withdrew the Ponsot wines Credit: Times of Malta

John Kapon of Acker withdrew 97 bottles of Domaine Ponsot belonging to Kurniawan at a 2008 auction at Cru in New York due to “inconsistencies”. Credit: Times of Malta

Ponsot has spoken out about the fact that he believes Kurniawan had an accomplice, whom he intends to reveal the identity of in a book due for release later this year.

“Rudy has been advised by someone with extensive knowledge of Burgundy. I know who it is,” Ponsot told Vanity Fair magazine.

One person thought to be a possible accomplice is Kurniawan’s friend and former business associate Paul Wasserman, who met Kurniawan in 2002.

Managing a wine shop Kurniawan bought in LA, Wasserman educated the young Indonesian collector in the intricacies of Burgundy.

“There is not enough concrete proof to try them yet, but their involvement is a fact. I will write the book with their real names and remove them with my lawyer at the end. It will be clear who they are,” Ponsot told The Telegraph.

Earlier this month Kurniawan was sentenced to 10 years in prison, a US$20 million fine and a further $28 million in compensation to his victims.

Ponsot hopes the case will mark the end of the “golden era of fake wine”, though believes fakers will turn their attentions to counterfeiting mid-range wines.

He also wants to dispel the myth of Kurniawan as a genius fraudster made scapegoat. “People must know that he is a nasty piece of work – he and his accomplices,” he said.

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