French master chef Benoît Violier, who was found dead of an apparent suicide last Sunday, may have been victimized by a company that sold expensive wine but allegedly failed to deliver the bottles, reports Swiss business magazine Bilan.
Violier, who was 44, apparently died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He left no note.
Violier was the owner and chef of the three-Michelin-star Restaurant de l’Hôtel de Ville near Lausanne, Switzerland. It had been recently named the best in the world by France’s La Liste, a respected roundup of the best restaurants across 48 countries. New York City’s Per Se came in second.
Bilan reports that Violier’s restaurant was working with a Swiss company, Private Finance Partners, which helped restaurateurs source very expensive wines — including bottles that cost upwards of $20,000, like a Henri Jayer burgundy, considered the most expensive in the world.
However, the company is reported to have scammed its customers out of the bottles, collecting payment and failing to provide the goods, in a classic Ponzi scheme.
Private Finance Partners would reportedly sell the same bottle three to four times over. Violier’s restaurant may have suffered losses of as much as $2 million thanks to the scheme, according to Bilan. One of the company’s brokers was arrested in October, and the company declared bankruptcy last November, reports Bilan.
However, André Kudelski, a restaurant shareholder, denied the scam allegations, saying the restaurant had “no issues” with the company in question.
Violier’s last words to his mâitre d’hôtel Louis Villeneuve were: “See you Tuesday,” reports the Telegraph. He is survived by his wife and a 12-year-old son.