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$550m worth of Kurniawan counterfeit wines being ‘resold over and over again’

As much as US$550 million worth of fine wine from imprisoned counterfeiter Rudy Kurniawan may still be in the market, according to Maureen Downey.

Wine counterfeiter Rudy Kurniawan may have faked as much as $550m worth of wine between 2002 and 2012, according to Maureen Downey

Downey, a fine wine authentication expert and founder of Chai Consulting, made the claim last month in London when considering the amount of fake fine wine that may be circulating the worldwide secondary market.

Speaking about Kurniawan specifically, she said that he was “single-handedly responsible for $550m [of counterfeit wine] at current market rates, and almost none of it has been removed from the market; it is being resold over and over again.”

When asked by db to account for such a high figure, Downey said that Kurniawan was selling more than $1 million worth of fine wine each month from 2002 until his arrest in 2012, and estimated that he was responsible for as much as $150m worth of fake wine over a 10-year period.

Continuing, she said that Kurniawan’s counterfeits had a value today that was almost four times that figure.

By way of example, she said that in 2002 Kurniawan was selling 1978 Henri Jayer Richebourg Grand Cru for between $2-3,000 per bottle – and today that wine is worth more than $10,000.

“So,” she said, “the current value of the wine that Rudy made accounts for at least $550m.”

Furthermore, she stated, “And I don’t know of anyone other than us who is removing it [from the market],” adding that “very little” of Kurniawan’s wine has been detected. 

A selection of fine wines faked by Kurniawan that have been discovered by Downey

As previously reported by db, Downey said that as much as $3bn worth of counterfeit fine wine may be circulating the trade at current market prices, based on the suggestion that 20% of a $15bn secondary fine wine market is fake.

“The pervasiveness of counterfeit wines in the fine wine world is a lot larger than people know, or are willing to admit to,” she stated, addressing attendees of a masterclass on wine fraud, which was held at London private members’ wine club, 67 Pall Mall, on 23 November.

Wine fraudster Rudy Kurniawan was handed a 10-year prison sentence in August 2012. The Indonesian national was found guilty in December 2013 on multiple accounts of wine fraud for millions of dollars, and had been in jail since his arrest in 2012.

District Judge Berman sentenced the 37-year-old to 10 years in jail, ordered him to pay $28.4 million in restitution to his victims, and another $20 million as part of a forfeiture agreement.

An out of court settlement with billionaire wine collector Bill Koch, one of his victims, had previously been agreed, as reported by Bloomberg.

Up to 12,000 bottles of fake vintages are believed to have been manufactured by Kurniawan in 2006 alone, who sold them at auction using the collateral to secure a loan of $3 million.

Kurniawan would mix old wine with newer vintages in his kitchen before passing them off as more expensive wines.

Indeed, Downey told db that Kurniawan would often use Californian wines in place of the great wines of Burgundy and Bordeaux. “If you look at the tasting notes of Kurniawan wines you will see over and over again the comments, ‘surprisingly youthful for its age’ and ‘incredibly deep colour for its age’, which was right, but it was because the wine wasn’t really 1945 Mouton or 1945 Romaneé-Conti, but Californian Cabernet or Pinot,” she said.

According to the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), more than €48bn, or 7.4% of all sales, is lost every year in nine sectors due to the presence of fake goods in the market.

These sectors are cosmetics and personal care, clothing, footwear and accessories, sports goods, toys and games, jewellery and watches, handbags, recorded music, spirits and wine, and pharmaceuticals.

Despite the scale of the problem, Downey told db that just 29% of fine wine producers report using anti-fraud technology in their packaging.

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