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Friday, 26 December 2014

Downey Launches Wine Fraud Website!

One of the world's top wine fraud investigators is making sure that vendors and collectors can protect themselves from swindlers.

Maureen Downey, the fine wine authenticator and consultant who was instrumental in bringing down Rudy Kurniawan is launching a new website named WineFraud.com in March 2015.

The subscription website will be a resource for vendors and buyers of fine and rare wines, providing information about wine counterfeiting and wine authentication. The free-content part of the website will include a list of vendor members, all of whom will have been personally vetted.

Downey, who trades as Chai Consulting, says that by her calculation the total value of fake wine Kurniawan and his presumed accomplices dumped on the market between 2002 and when he was arrested amounted to $130 million at the time of the original sale. The value of these wines today is considerably more than double that, and many of these are still on the market, she claims.

As an example, Kurniawan sold fake 1962 DRC Romanée-Conti in 2003-2004 for around $3000-$4000. Today, Wine Searcher's database shows a bottle of the same wine to be worth an average of $11,500, and according to Downey there are plenty of fakes of the same wine still circulating.
Downey told Wine Searcher that, since Kurniawan's conviction in December 2013, vendors have not changed enough. "I am stunned by the success that some vendors continue to show, especially in the U.S. Vendors in Europe take the situation more seriously," she said.

She noted that most of the main collectors knew about the problem long before Kurniawan's arrest, but that others have not adapted enough since.

The new website will include a "Wine Authentication 101", covering everything to do with counterfeiting but not giving enough information for would-be counterfeiters to take up the "profession". It will also include the stories of all the principal wine fraudsters, and regular articles related to counterfeiting and authentication.

The site will feature an in-depth look at Rudy Kurniawan's fraudulent career. Downey says that her team has the most comprehensive database of information, following several months that Chai Consulting spent cataloguing and photographing evidence.

Large numbers of fake labels were found at Kurniawan's house.
© Chai Consulting | Large numbers of fake labels were found at Kurniawan's house.

Regular contributors to the new site, along with Downey herself, will include Michael Egan, a former Sotheby's wine expert, and specialist lawyer Jason Hernandez.

WineFraud.com plans to create a logo for use by its professional vendor members on their own sites to indicate that they are fully committed to fighting counterfeits and are up to date about the issue. These members will have been vetted by Chai Consulting based on knowledge of past sales. Anyone known to the company to have been wilfully irresponsible or even ignorant will not be permitted to be a member.

Membership fees to access the site have not yet been announced by Downey, however there will be various tiers including one for enthusiasts, another for collectors and finally a professional membership. The professional membership will include information about fraudulent wines that might pop up, as well as lists of vendors that might be trying to sell bad wines.

Downey warned that membership will be expensive, but promises to provide very thorough information, which has taken her team years to accumulate.

Source: http://www.wine-searcher.com/