Henry Tang: Fake wine allegations are 'unsubstantiated and false'

Former chief secretary and Christie’s say the Burgundy domaine has confirmed that it has no concerns over the lots’ authenticity

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 March, 2013, 8:22am

Henry Tang Ying-yen, some of whose wines auctioned by Christie's were alleged to be inauthentic, hit back strongly yesterday.

He said all the lots are authentic and he reserves his legal right against "unfounded allegations".

Don Cornwell, an attorney based in Los Angeles, earlier wrote to the auctioneer and the FBI that three lots in Tang's collection - a Methuselah of 1971 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (DRC) La Tâche, a three-bottle lot of 1959 Romanée-Conti and a 12-bottle case of 1978 Montrachet - to go under the hammer last week were problematic.

The La Tâche was withdrawn as "a precautionary measure" and the other two lots were sold.

Both Tang and Christie's responded yesterday, saying they have confirmation from the world famous Burgundy domaine that it has no concerns over the three lots' authenticity. Tang added that he reserves his legal right against any unfounded allegations.

"It has come to my attention that there were some allegations against a tiny part of my wine collection which were put to Christie's for auction recently. These allegations are totally unsubstantiated and false," Tang said in a statement.

"Indeed, the DRC has considered these provenance and has not raised any doubts about them. It is hardly convincing for anyone who purports to know wine just by looking at the labels without going into their provenance," he said.

Cornwell earlier alleged that Tang bought a number of the bottles from Richard Torin of Clarets in California. Torin was the single largest customer of Antonio Castanos who acted as the wholesaler for wines supplied by controversial collector Rudy Kurniawan, 37, who had been arrested for selling fake wine.

A person close to Tang said he did not get his wines from Torin, but from a reliable supplier in Britain two decades ago - when Kurniawan was still a teenager and too young to sell wines.

Cornwell, a whistleblower on online wine forums, earlier told the South China Morning Post that it would "make sense for the Hong Kong law enforcement authorities to look at the issue with respect to what Christie's did or failed to do, particularly after they had the information from me objecting to the authenticity of the bottles".

"I have never met Mr Tang myself, but I am told by others who know him that he is an honourable man and is normally careful in buying wines," he said.

"I have no information at all which would suggest that he is involved in any way in attempting to knowingly market counterfeit wines. However, I am somewhat concerned that he is attempting to defend the authenticity of the bottles that were sold that I questioned."

Cornwell could not be reached for further comment.

The Customs has received 12 complaints about fake wines since 2008, but none of the cases were established, a spokeswoman said.