Kurniawan forfeits $20m, but sentencing wait drags on

Rudy KurniawanLegal wrangling has delayed the sentencing of convicted wine counterfeiter Rudy Kurniawan once again to August 4, although he has been ordered to forfeit $20m to victims of his fraud.

The scale of the award is however thought to be largely symbolic as Kurniawan is understood to have relatively few assets left, other than a home in California.

At a hearing last Thursday, Kurniawan's defense lawyer Jerome Mooney told Judge Richard Berman that claims the defendant sold at least $20m-worth of counterfeit wine were inflated.

Berman said sentencing should be held up - for a third time - while the value of the fraud and the number of victims was investigated further.

The value of the fraud means the Indonesian national faces a lengthy jail sentence; up to a maximum of 40 years or around 11 years if sentencing guidelines are followed, although the prosecution is pushing for a 14-year term. 

Mooney told the hearing that the amount of counterfeit wine was actually much lower - closer to $7m - and that Kurniawan should merely be sentenced to the two-and-a-half years already served since his arrest in 2012.

Koch settlement

Separately, Kurniawan has reached a $3m settlement agreement to settle a civil lawsuit brought by billionaire William Koch that includes a commitment to cooperate with efforts to stamp out counterfeiting in the vintage wine industry. In return, Koch withdrew restitution claims of $2m in the criminal case.

There is considerable interest among wine collectors in gain further insights into how wine counterfeiting is perpetrated, as well as the identities of other individuals who may be involved in the trade.

Earlier this month Koch also settled a $4.2m lawsuit brought against New York wine retailer Acker, Merrall & Condit which alleged it had knowingly sold him 216 bottles of counterfeit wine as auctions in 2005 and 2006. The terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

Last year, Koch also $12m in punitive damages in a suit brought California entrepreneur and former billionaire Eric Greenberg, although a US federal judge ruled  earlier this year the aware was excessive and should be reduced.

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