RUDY KURNIAWAN & GLOBAL WINE AUCTION FRAUD THREAD (MERGED)

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ALERT CONCERNING WINES IN HENRY TANG AUCTION

Post #4586  Postby Don Cornwell » March 15th 2013, 4:47am

Below is a follow-up email I sent to Christie's concerning Lot 189--a Methuselah of 1971 DRC La Tache in the Henry Tang Auction which is scheduled for later today in Hong Kong --

Mr. Elswood:

I’ve now obtained more of the photographs and data I was waiting for on Lots 189 (71 La Tâche Methuselah) and [Lot 165] (59 Romanée Conti).

Based on what I’ve learned, absent further information to the contrary from DRC, I do not believe that Lot 189 or Lot [165] is authentic and that both should be withdrawn along with Lot 256. Because of the number of attachments to this email, to maintain clarity, I will send you a separate one on Lot [165] (59 Romanée Conti).

LOT 189 (1071 DRC LA TÂCHE METHUSELAH)

As I’m sure you’re aware, Aubert’s father’s last vintage in charge at DRC was 1971. Aubert de Villaine and Lalou Bize Leroy took over the running of the Domaine with the 1972 vintage. When the 1971 vintage was released in 1974, the wines were released under the single signature “H. de Villaine.” When the 1972 vintage was released in 1975, the wines for the first time bore two signatures – of Lalou Bize Leroy and Aubert de Villaine. In the 1972 and 1973 vintages, the DRC wines bore a label with both signatures and Lalou’s was in a very light hand starting in the middle of the label above Aubert’s. Commencing with the 1974 vintage, Lalou’s signature on the label was in a much heavier style, more closely resembling Aubert’s signature and Lalou’s signature began a little further to the right.

At some point after 1974, DRC released additional bottles of the 1971 wines and issued them with two-signature labels which were essentially identical to the template used for the 1972 and 1973 vintages. Commencing in or after 1981, DRC released additional 1971s through Wilson-Daniels in the US. Those bottles utilized a two-signature label which was modeled after the template for the 1978 vintage, including changes in the emphasis marks (adding an Aigu on Propriétaire on line two and adding a circumflex over the A in La Tâche), but utilizing the older-style “Mis Du Domaine” capsules.

Lot 189 in the Henry Tang auction is a bottle with a two-signature label (of the 1972-73 vintage type), with a strip label from Foreign Brands with the fluid quantity stated in pints and ounces (whereas all other 1971 strip labels from Consolidated Distilled Products, Leroy, Frederic Wildman, Domaine Chandon, Young’s Markets, etc state the quantities in liters) and, most significantly, it bears bottle Number 0001.

I have long had concerns about the authenticity of the bottles of 1971 DRC wines bearing Foreign Brands strip labels as all other strip labels at that time were labeled with the fluid quality in liters. You have undoubtedly seen some of the Foreign Brands Jeroboams which also have handwritten interlineations correcting the printed quantity to 6 pints and 4 ounces. It also seems difficult to believe that a late issue wine, such as Lot 189, would have the quantity labeled in pints and ounces.

But putting that concern temporarily aside, there is no logical explanation for how a bottle labeled and issued at least a year after the initial release of the 1971 vintage (i.e. in or after 1975) could have Methuselah No. 0001 on it. As you know, DRC puts unique bottle numbers on its wines and logs and tracks where each bottle is shipped. For Lot No 189 to be authentic, that would have to mean that DRC did not release any 1971 Methuselahs when the vintage was originally released in the Spring of 1974 – because had DRC done so, bottle No. 1 would have already been stamped and shipped. Taking this one step further, for Mr. Tang’s Methuselah to be authentic it would mean that no 1971 Methuselah bearing a single signature could be authentic. Again this seems preposterous.

Wine Market Journal’s data shows that seven Methuselahs have been sold since 1999 where the data is traceable to a specific auction house. Combining that information with the information available from photographs and the auction house data, we know one 1971 Methuselah was unquestionably counterfeit, two were definitely sold by Rudy Kurniawan and are presumptively counterfeit, including Lot 234 in your November 5, 2009 auction in London, and a fourth Methuselah which has Foreign Brands strip label with a five digit bottle number and 73cl printed in the right corner of the label, is suspect at best.



While I don’t see any rational or logical explanation that could explain how late released Methuselahs could have two signature labels in combination with bottle Nos 0001 (Tang Bottle) or 0003 (Christie’s NY May 2007 bottle) printed on them, the one thing that the work that preceded this email demonstrates is that the auction houses have been extremely sloppy in their authentication efforts to date and that they need to be a hell of a lot more skeptical and a lot more careful about accepting big glass items from DRC for auction.

Under the circumstances, in my opinion I do not see how it is possible to conclude that the Henry Tang Methuselah bearing Bottle No. 0001 is authentic and I strongly recommend that Christie’s withdraw the bottle.

One final note. In the interest of full disclosure, since Christie’s has ignored every communication I’ve sent since September 2009 concerning what I believe are clearly counterfeit wines being offered by Christie’s, I’ve taken the precaution of sending a copy of this email to Mr. James Wynne of the FBI, who is continuing to investigate claims related to the ongoing rash of counterfeit wines being sold at auction. I have also forwarded Mr. Wynne a copy of my email concerning Lot 256 (78 DRC Montrachet).

{NOTE--This email was sent with nine photographs totalling 11 Megabytes).
Last edited by Don Cornwell on March 19th 2013, 12:43am, edited 2 times in total.
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ALERT CONCERNING WINES IN HENRY TANG AUCTION

Post #4587  Postby Don Cornwell » March 15th 2013, 6:10am

The following is my third in the series of three emails to Christies concerning the problems I found with various lots of DRC wines in the Henry Tang Auction being conducted in Hong Kong later today --

Mr. Elswood:

This is the follow-up to my two prior communications about Lots189 (1971 La Tâche Methuselah) and 256 (78 DRC Montrachet in OWC)

With respect Lot 165 (3 bottles of 1959 Romanée-Conti), I again believe that Lot 165 is not authentic for the following reasons:

First, Lot 165 has four digit bottle numbers instead of five. Except for bottles that have come from Rudy Kurniawan, every bottle of 1959 DRC that I have ever seen, including some Échézeaux and Grands Échézeaux I owned myself, bore five digit numbers. See, for example, the attached photographs.

http://i1049.photobucket.com/albums/s385/doncornwell/Henry%20Tang%20Auction/1959LaTacheHDH5-16-2008_zpscf3dad2b.jpg

http://i1049.photobucket.com/albums/s385/doncornwell/Henry%20Tang%20Auction/1959LaTacheDonStottAcker10-29-2011_zpse02919ec.jpg

http://i1049.photobucket.com/albums/s385/doncornwell/Henry%20Tang%20Auction/1959LaTacheGuidoMyelmans-consumedin1985_zps0aef9e85.jpg

http://i1049.photobucket.com/albums/s385/doncornwell/Henry%20Tang%20Auction/1959LaTachefromEuropeanFineWines_zpsd6314d8d.jpg

http://i1049.photobucket.com/albums/s385/doncornwell/Henry%20Tang%20Auction/1959DRCGrandsEchHeritageApril2012_zpsed8b008a.jpg

http://i1049.photobucket.com/albums/s385/doncornwell/Henry%20Tang%20Auction/1959DRCGrandsEchCellarTracker_zps42d6a4f8.jpg

http://i1049.photobucket.com/albums/s385/doncornwell/Henry%20Tang%20Auction/195964and71GEDonStottAcker10-29-11_zps3de8c585.jpg

http://i1049.photobucket.com/albums/s385/doncornwell/Henry%20Tang%20Auction/1959LaTacheVinfolio-mainlabel_zpsa56dfc05.jpg

I went to Wine Market Journal and looked up 1959 Romanée Conti and filtered out only the Christie’s entries. I was going to point you to a multitude of bottles of Romanée Conti with five digit numbers sold by Christie’s but it immediately became apparent that the overwhelming majority of bottles of 1959 Romanée Conti that Christie’s has sold in the last five years came directly from Rudy Kurniawan. This includes:

12 different bottles sold as Lots 155 to 160 in the December 9, 2009 auction held in NY
Lots 50 and 51 sold on November 14, 2009 in NY; and
Four bottles sold on September 12, 2009 in NY

Of the other items since 2007 on the list, unfortunately there are no photos or bottle numbers for the bottles listed as sold by Christie’s on April 19, 2011 in Paris, or the September 22, 2009 bottles sold in London.

So starting with the 2007 and moving backwards ….

November 13, 2007 (Geneva) Lot 297 -- Btl No. 08475 (this btl also has a wax capsule. I suggest you look at the catalog and photos in your file)

December 7, 2006 (London) Lot 344 – Btl No. 01496
December 7, 2006 (London) Lot 345 – Btl No. 06786

June 15, 2006 (London) Lots 403 to 405 (No photographs, bottle numbers or catalog available)

January 19, 2006 (London) Lot 232 – Btl No 03517
January 19. 2006 (London) Lot 233 – Btl No. 03523

I stopped at this point because I think I’ve made my point.

Second, the neck labels on these bottles are brand new, bear no oxidation, dirt or stains of any kind and they are hand cut, not machine cut. [See the following linked photos:

http://i1049.photobucket.com/albums/s385/doncornwell/Henry%20Tang%20Auction/96b1ca78-bd7a-41fe-bb79-f24f802500b4_zps1e786efd.jpg [url]

http://i1049.photobucket.com/albums/s385/doncornwell/Henry%20Tang%20Auction/1959RC-HenryTang-photo3_zpse3db3bf1.jpg]

http://i1049.photobucket.com/albums/s385/doncornwell/Henry%20Tang%20Auction/1959RC-HenryTang-photo2_zps44ea0d0a.jpg

To put it mildly, they are not remotely believable. I will concede that the neck labels on many 1959s are whiter than the main labels on cellared bottles but all of those bottles show some evidence of dirt, oxidation, wear and tear. Mr. Tang’s do not. Moreover, two of these neck labels are notably irregular and were clearly hand cut. See the attached photos provided by Christie’s.

Third, the wax capsules on these bottles are brand new, exhibit no oxidation or wear and are the wrong color for the vintage. [See the following linked photo:

http://i1049.photobucket.com/albums/s385/doncornwell/Henry%20Tang%20Auction/1959RC-HenryTang-photo1_zpsff1e4b85.jpg

As I’m sure you must be aware from seeing many DRC bottles over the years, it was relatively unusual for DRC to bottle 750 ml bottles in wax – although yes they did it for Belgium and certain customers who requested it. The wax that DRC used from the 1950s through 1970s was notably red and as it oxidizes over time it gets lighter. DRC began using violet colored capsules and some violet colored wax in the late 1990s. The wax capsules on these bottles appear to be brand new, bear no oxidation and no wear and tear and they are clearly the modern violet in color, not red.

In my opinion, these bottles are clearly not authentic and the fact that this lot purportedly passed your authentication process I find astounding.

(NOTE: This email included 12 photographs)
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Re: RUDY KURNIAWAN SPECTRUM / VANQUISH WINE AUCTION FRAUD TH

Post #4588  Postby Bill Bøykin » March 15th 2013, 8:52am

Thanks once again for all your exceptional diligence in these matters,Don.
Please include a response from Elswood......if you ever get one,but congratulations on getting it on record!
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Post #4589  Postby scott c l a f f e e » March 15th 2013, 8:59am

Lot 256 went for HK$847,000 (US$109,667), which is 40% more than the high estimate. Over $9K per bottle.
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Post #4590  Postby scott c l a f f e e » March 15th 2013, 9:01am

Lot 189 was not sold (pulled?). Lot 156 was sold for HK$1,210,000 (US$156,667).
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Post #4591  Postby Dan Collins » March 15th 2013, 9:03am

Thanks, Don.
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Post #4592  Postby Kevin Sidders » March 15th 2013, 8:17pm

Given all that has transpired, I am absolutely dumbfounded that these auction house shenanigans continue unabated.

I don't know what's more flabbergasting -- the lack of professionalism on their part, or the lack of repercussions from consumers and/or law enforcement...
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Post #4593  Postby Bill Bøykin » March 16th 2013, 8:06am

Kevin Sidders wrote:Given all that has transpired, I am absolutely dumbfounded that these auction house shenanigans continue unabated.

I don't know what's more flabbergasting -- the lack of professionalism on their part, or the lack of repercussions from consumers and/or law enforcement...


Kevin,I'm sure that many here share in that feeling of being dumbfounded.Do you see the continuing of these shenanigans as stemming partly from ignorance and/or sloppy inspection.....or more so from just an overwhelming chutzpah,hubris and lack of fear from any aforementioned repercussions.........going wide eyed with feelings of invulnerability into blatant fraud and deception ?
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Post #4594  Postby G. Bienstock » March 16th 2013, 9:49am

The 2 aforementioned lots went for over a quarter of a million buckaroo's. Wow!
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Post #4595  Postby NJBruce » March 16th 2013, 9:01pm

The press in Hong Kong have picked up this big auction story, but have focused on the location of Henry Tang's collection. They seem quite unaware of any issue with counterfeit wines.
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Post #4596  Postby David Glasser » March 17th 2013, 5:26am

A while back I went through a period of being stunned at how little impact the information about fraudulent bottles and Rudy K was having on the auction market. Others here pointed out how little traction this story is getting outside WB and a writer or two like Jancis Robinson. I suspect that even if Rudy and a few auction house people got convicted of fraud, it would create a widespread buzz for a very brief period, and then things would quickly get back to what passes for normal in the auction world.
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Post #4597  Postby Tom Blach » March 17th 2013, 7:12am

It is worth bearing in mind that many of the purchasers of these lots value things other than the way the wine tastes, at which point meanings change quite significantly. Nobody really loves top grade shark's fin for its remarkable texture and claimed health-giving properties, it's all about what it represents.
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Post #4598  Postby billnanson » March 17th 2013, 11:19am

I remain 'astounded' that sellers, buyers, law enforcers and both specialist and generalist media just don't seem to care one bit!
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Post #4599  Postby J a y H a c k » March 17th 2013, 11:58am

billnanson wrote:I remain 'astounded' that sellers, buyers, law enforcers and both specialist and generalist media just don't seem to care one bit!

It's a bunch of rich people with more money than brains fighting over grape juice that was allowed to rot until the yeast died. Why are you astounded about law enforcement and generalist media. It is a story that is completely irrelevant to 99.9%+ of the world. Frankly, although I follow the story for academic interest as an attorney, it is completely irrelevant to me and I have bought wine at AMC auctions.
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Post #4600  Postby billnanson » March 17th 2013, 12:14pm

I'm astounded because it is so blatant, Jay. Daily, I read of people being jailed for years for fraud, stealing tiny fractions of the value involved here. Yet sales such as this appear widely in headlines not just in specialist press, but also (for instance) the FT yesterday:
http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/6e866080 ... abdc0.html
(you may need a subscription for that...)
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Post #4601  Postby David Glasser » March 17th 2013, 2:18pm

Tom Blach wrote:It is worth bearing in mind that many of the purchasers of these lots value things other than the way the wine tastes, at which point meanings change quite significantly. Nobody really loves top grade shark's fin for its remarkable texture and claimed health-giving properties, it's all about what it represents.


I understand this sentiment, Tom. However, in other fields (art, vintage cars, etc.) the collectors prize authenticity and put a premium on it. It's as if collectors of rare wine have succumbed to a mass-hysteria sort of delusional denial. Either that, or they are crass enough not to care about authenticity, and are happy to pass off their trophies as real regardless of provenance.
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Post #4602  Postby Peter Kleban » March 17th 2013, 2:39pm

To me this sounds like a bubble that, sooner or later, will break.
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Post #4603  Postby rebeccagibb » March 18th 2013, 12:15am

Thanks to Don for bringing this to our attention. As a member of the wine press, I have contacted Christie's in Hong Kong and requested a telephone interview in response to his claims. I was refused but have been given an email response, which is now online at Wine-Searcher.
http://www.wine-searcher.com/m/2013/03/authenticity-of-henry-tang-wines-queried
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Post #4604  Postby billnanson » March 18th 2013, 12:44am

Well-done Rebecca!
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Post #4605  Postby Lewis Dawson » March 18th 2013, 2:14am

Indeed, well done, Rebecca. And welcome to Wineberserkers. It would be great if the mainstream press picked up this story.
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Post #4606  Postby Anthony Hall » March 18th 2013, 2:26am

Welcome rebecca. How about putting wine beserkers as one of your recommended links !

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Post #4607  Postby Robin Wu » March 18th 2013, 3:24am

Didnt Zachys recently try to sell a similar bottle of 71 La Tache (both in HK and in NY Paulee Auction)? IIRC, they pulled the lot in HK.
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Post #4608  Postby cedricmanet » March 18th 2013, 7:09am

As a small wine merchant from Bordeaux I am really concerned by all these fake bottles...
Confidence is the most important in this business of rare wines and by selling such bottles, these auction houses make consumers become suspicious.
Some people say they are experts of rare wines but when you see these wax capsules, how can you offer them for sale ????
I have sold and seen a lot of old bottles and I do not understand these "professionnals of wine"...
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Post #4609  Postby Kevin Sidders » March 18th 2013, 8:08am

David Glasser wrote:
Tom Blach wrote:It is worth bearing in mind that many of the purchasers of these lots value things other than the way the wine tastes, at which point meanings change quite significantly. Nobody really loves top grade shark's fin for its remarkable texture and claimed health-giving properties, it's all about what it represents.


I understand this sentiment, Tom. However, in other fields (art, vintage cars, etc.) the collectors prize authenticity and put a premium on it. It's as if collectors of rare wine have succumbed to a mass-hysteria sort of delusional denial. Either that, or they are crass enough not to care about authenticity, and are happy to pass off their trophies as real regardless of provenance.


This is precisely what I don't understand about this situation. I was of the impression that these auction houses were incredibly diligent in their authenticity research because they had to be. Perhaps that's the answer in this case -- at least as it relates to wine, maybe they don't have to be if consumers are willing to pay six figure sums regardless...
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Post #4610  Postby Peter Kleban » March 18th 2013, 8:23am

Kevin Sidders wrote:
David Glasser wrote:
Tom Blach wrote:It is worth bearing in mind that many of the purchasers of these lots value things other than the way the wine tastes, at which point meanings change quite significantly. Nobody really loves top grade shark's fin for its remarkable texture and claimed health-giving properties, it's all about what it represents.


I understand this sentiment, Tom. However, in other fields (art, vintage cars, etc.) the collectors prize authenticity and put a premium on it. It's as if collectors of rare wine have succumbed to a mass-hysteria sort of delusional denial. Either that, or they are crass enough not to care about authenticity, and are happy to pass off their trophies as real regardless of provenance.


This is precisely what I don't understand about this situation. I was of the impression that these auction houses were incredibly diligent in their authenticity research because they had to be. Perhaps that's the answer in this case -- at least as it relates to wine, maybe they don't have to be if consumers are willing to pay six figure sums regardless...



To me it sounds like a house of cards. Collectors want old, expensive trophy wines. So they go to established auction houses. They "must" be carefully vetting their offerings, otherwise they wouldn't be respectable. The very high prices reinforce their bone fides. Occasionally removing bottles at the last minute probably helps, if anything. Until somebody like Don comes along...then the whole thing can collapse, once the news gets out and is noticed.
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Post #4611  Postby drsugarman » March 18th 2013, 9:14am

Robin Wu wrote:Didnt Zachys recently try to sell a similar bottle of 71 La Tache (both in HK and in NY Paulee Auction)? IIRC, they pulled the lot in HK.
It didn't sell in NYC ... it was passed.
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Post #4612  Postby Jim Burk » March 18th 2013, 2:47pm

I have asked many fairly serious wine drinkers what they think about this story, and am amazed at how few have any idea that it is going on! So I am not too surprised that the auctions just keep rolling along.
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Post #4613  Postby rebeccagibb » March 18th 2013, 3:00pm

Thanks to Bill, Lewis and Anthony for the warm welcomes to the forum. I shall keep my eyes peeled for more suspicious lots you eagle-eyed bunch detect and ask the questions to the powers that be.

Anthony, I'm happy to put a link from my blog to Wine Berserkers (when I work out how to do it!!)
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Re: RUDY KURNIAWAN SPECTRUM / VANQUISH WINE AUCTION FRAUD THREAD (MERGED)

Post #4614  Postby Peter Kleban » March 18th 2013, 3:02pm

rebeccagibb wrote:Thanks to Bill, Lewis and Anthony for the warm welcomes to the forum. I shall keep my eyes peeled for more suspicious lots you eagle-eyed bunch detect and ask the questions to the powers that be.

Anthony, I'm happy to put a link from my blog to Wine Berserkers (when I work out how to do it!!)


Let me extend a welcome also! Hope you enjoy this place--it can be a lot of fun.
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Re: RUDY KURNIAWAN SPECTRUM / VANQUISH WINE AUCTION FRAUD THREAD (MERGED)

Post #4615  Postby Todd F r e n c h » March 18th 2013, 4:05pm

Apparently I'm lazy, have a narrow agenda, and offer little in the way of content and substance (RMP)
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gene keenan
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Re: RUDY KURNIAWAN SPECTRUM / VANQUISH WINE AUCTION FRAUD THREAD (MERGED)

Post #4616  Postby gene keenan » March 18th 2013, 4:10pm

Todd F r e n c h wrote:This just hit my inbox - http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/arti ... thenticity


A detailed counterfeit wine allegation by Los Angeles-based lawyer Don Cornwell has been circulating on Wine Berserkers, an online forum with more than a million registered wine buffs, and other forums since Saturday.

Congrats Todd on reaching a million members!!!!!!!!!! [wow.gif]
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Re: RUDY KURNIAWAN SPECTRUM / VANQUISH WINE AUCTION FRAUD THREAD (MERGED)

Post #4617  Postby cjsavino » March 18th 2013, 4:13pm

image.jpg
image.jpg (53.29 KiB) Viewed 1319 times
Todd F r e n c h wrote:This just hit my inbox - http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/arti ... thenticity

I liked the picture
Chris
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Re: RUDY KURNIAWAN SPECTRUM / VANQUISH WINE AUCTION FRAUD THREAD (MERGED)

Post #4618  Postby Todd F r e n c h » March 18th 2013, 4:23pm

gene keenan wrote:
Todd F r e n c h wrote:This just hit my inbox - http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/arti ... thenticity


A detailed counterfeit wine allegation by Los Angeles-based lawyer Don Cornwell has been circulating on Wine Berserkers, an online forum with more than a million registered wine buffs, and other forums since Saturday.

Congrats Todd on reaching a million members!!!!!!!!!! [wow.gif]

From 9,000 to over a million! Boo ya!

If I approved all the spam memberships, we'd actually be darn near close to 1,000,000 now! (a trick many forums utilize, activating spam memberships but not allowing them to post)
Apparently I'm lazy, have a narrow agenda, and offer little in the way of content and substance (RMP)
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Re: RUDY KURNIAWAN SPECTRUM / VANQUISH WINE AUCTION FRAUD THREAD (MERGED)

Post #4619  Postby Bruce Leiser_owitz » March 18th 2013, 4:29pm

gene keenan wrote:[
A detailed counterfeit wine allegation by Los Angeles-based lawyer Don Cornwell has been circulating on Wine Berserkers, an online forum with more than a million registered wine buffs, and other forums since Saturday.

Congrats Todd on reaching a million members!!!!!!!!!! [wow.gif]


I dare say many of us aren't really that buff, but why quibble over adjectives?

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Re: RUDY KURNIAWAN & GLOBAL WINE AUCTION FRAUD THREAD (MERGED)

Post #4620  Postby Didier Li » March 18th 2013, 4:53pm

If these auction houses were really intent on stamping out counterfeit DRCs from their auctions, they would simply hire Mr. Cornwell as a consultant! The fact that they continually ignore him speaks volumes as to their true motives...

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