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Kurniawan may plead insanity in trial

Alleged wine counterfeiter Rudy Kurniawan may be planning an insanity defence when he stands trial in New York next month for US$1.3m worth of wine fraud.

According to Bloomberg, Kurniawan’s lawyer, Vincent Verdiramo, wrote to District Judge Richard Berman this week asking him to order the federal lockup where Kurniawan is being held to permit him to be examined by forensic psychiatrists S. Shane Konrad, M.D. and Virginia Barber-Rioja, Ph.D.

In response, assistant attorneys Jason Hernandez and Joseph Facciponti wrote to Berman asking him to hold an immediate court conference to address the issue.

“The defendant’s request suggests that he may seek to raise a defense of insanity or claim that he is not competent to stand trial,” the prosecutors said in the letter.

Bloomberg reports that Hernandez and Facciponti are concerned that the request is a “last-minute attempt to delay the trial,” which is due to start on 9 December.

DRC’s Aubert de Villaine is due to testify in the trial. Credit: Jonas Fredwall Karlsson

Aubert de Villaine, co-owner of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Laurent Ponsot, head of Domaine Ponsot and Christophe Roumier, head winemaker at Domaine Georges Roumier are all due to testify in the trial.

Indonesian-born Kurniawan is accused of counterfeiting more than US$1.3m in fake wines, including those purportedly made by Ponsot, de Villaine and Roumier.

During an FBI search of his LA home, agents found a counterfeit wine laboratory filled with thousands of fake labels for some of the world’s most expensive wines.

Nicknamed “Dr Conti” and “Mr 47″, among the wines Kurniawan allegedly 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.

Ponsot is expected to testify that purported bottles of pre-1982 Clos St. Denis that Kurniawan consigned for sale at auction were fakes because 1982 was the first vintage of Clos St. Denis produced by Domaine Ponsot.

Roumier meanwhile, is due to testify that a purported 1923 bottle of Domaine Roumier that was consigned for sale by Kurniawan was counterfeit because Domaine Roumier didn’t start making that particular wine until 1952.

Finally, Aubert de Villaine, who keeps a close tally on his wines, will testify that bottles of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Kurniawan sold were also counterfeit.

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