Florida billionaire Bill Koch has won millions of dollars in damages after a federal jury found in favor of his claim that he had been sold counterfeit bottles of wine.
Koch, 72, had brought a civil law suit against internet entrepreneur Eric Greenberg after buying wines that Greenberg had put up for auction in 2005.
Koch's attorney, John Hueston, confirmed the $12 million award to AFP, saying his client was very pleased with the outcome.
The decision was the culmination of a high-stakes trial, during which Koch accused Greenberg of fraud. He said he had been sold fake vintage wine as part of a $3.5 million purchase he made at the Zachys auction.
The plaintiff, who has never denied he was on a crusade to clean up the fine-wine trading business, was ecstatic about the outcome. "There was a code of silence in this bloody wine business, and now it's been broken," he was quoted by media reports as saying.
Alleging that Greenberg had knowingly submitted fake wines, Koch sought reparations for the money he had spent on 24 suspect bottles. In total, Koch invested $3.5 million in the Zachys auction, purchasing 2,669 bottles of Greenberg's wine. However, he did not query the origins of the remainder of the bottles he bought.
On Thursday, the jury agreed that Koch was the injured party in the civil case and awarded him $355,000 in compensation plus another $26,000 in additional damages "for findings of willful misconduct," his attorney said.
On Friday, the jury members returned to consider damages and awarded Koch an additional $12 million.
Outside the court house, the billionaire collector told the BBC the payment was "out of sight" and he was "over the moon." He added: "We weren't even expecting any damages and we got $12 million. Unbelievable!"
Koch said he planned to use the money to fight wine-auction fraud.
According to the Wine Spectator, the billionaire has spent more than $10 million on the Greenberg suit, but considered the legal fight a matter of principle.
"Collectors and individual sellers don't want anyone to know they have fake wine," he told the publication before the trial began. "They want to dump it on others. I'm the only guy who's blowing the whistle on it."
Greenberg, who had insisted during the trial that he believed the wines to be authentic, said he would appeal.
Hueston argued during the hearing that Greenberg went ahead with his consignment to Zachys in full knowledge that the bottles included fakes – and in fact hoping that Koch would snap them up.
"Mr Greenberg knew it and he didn't tell anybody," Hueston told the jury. "He sold those bottles for top dollars."