Did wine scam drive talented chef to suicide?

France Obit Benoit Violier
France Obit Benoit Violier

A brilliant chef who apparently committed suicide had recently fallen victim to a wine scam, it has been revealed.

Benoit Violier, 44, died from gunshot wounds and was found with a rifle by his side at his apartment in Crissier, Switzerland. There was no note.

Violier ran the prestigious Restaurant de l'Hotel de Ville, named as 'the world's best' by France's La Liste ranking just a few months ago.

But it's now been suggested by French financial magazine Bilan that he may have taken his own life after falling for a scam concerning rare wines that cost him somewhere between £554,700 and £1.37 million.

The magazine claims that a company called Private Finance Partners - which was declared bankrupt in November - was behind the scam, and that one of the firm's brokers has been arrested.

Private Finance Partners traded in rare wines, which it sold to high-end restaurants - but failed to deliver, it's alleged. It was apparently selling the same few bottles - priced between £14,000 and £27,500 each - to several different customers at the same time.

But Viollier had also suffered personal tragedies in recent months, losing his father last April and his mentor and 'second father' Philippe Rochat three months later.

Top chefs have expressed their sympathy. "My thoughts go out to Benoît Violier's family. Very sad news about an extremely talented chef," tweeted Michelin-starred French chef Pierre Gagnaire.

"An immense chef, an immense sadness, thoughts go out to his family and his team," wrote French celebrity chef Jean Francois Piege.
If the scam story's true, it wouldn't be the first time that wine dealers have left restaurants in the lurch. Just last month, California-based wine seller Premier Cru went bankrupt, owing customers millions: some lost out to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The company frequently sold wines on a 'pre-arrival' basis, and they often didn't turn up for years.

Individuals, too, should be wary of investing in wine. Last year, for example, it was revealed that fake wine investment firm Embassy Wine UK had been defrauding its customers to the tune of hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Action Fraud advises never buying investment wine on the basis of a cold call, and doing as much research as possible. We've got a quick guide to wine fraud, here.

World Renowned Chef Dead After Apparent Suicide
World Renowned Chef Dead After Apparent Suicide