Deal struck over CellarHand wine theft

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An extraordinary deal has allowed Melbourne wine man Lak Quach to avoid police investigation over an alleged $300,000 theft of wine from his former employer. The deal sees Quach, who has admitted the theft, having to turn over his personal wine cellar to his former employer, importer and wholesale distributor CellarHand, and agree to stay out of the wine business for five years.

The Melbourne wine world was rocked several weeks ago by the news that one of its most talented professionals had been accused of stealing wine valued at up to $300,000 from CellarHand.

All references to Quach were removed from CellarHand’s web-site and CellarHand proprietor Patrick Walsh went to ground for a period, while an internal investigation was conducted. On Monday, CellarHand issued a statement saying the matter was now closed, the investigation complete, and neither CellarHand nor its employees would have any further contact with Lak Quach.

The statement, signed by Patrick and Virginia Walsh, said

“We were extremely upset, devastated in fact, to recently discover that Lak had engaged in widespread, significant and serious misconduct for the duration of his employment with CellarHand, activities to which he has admitted.”

Quach had been praised to the skies by various wine professionals with whom he’d come into contact during his career, including James Halliday who recently employed him as a reviewer contributor to his Wine Companion book. This arrangement was terminated before it started.

Quach duxed the Len Evans Tutorial in 2013 and was praised for his exceptional palate and wine knowledge. Fairfax’s The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald reported on February 20 that Quach had come to Australia from Vietnam as a refugee and initially trained as a chiropractor.

The papers said Patrick Walsh had met Quach in 1999 while Quach was working as a sommelier at Langton’s Restaurant and Wine Bar in Melbourne, and had employed him at CellarHand in 2011.

The papers reported that Quach had been in charge of wine importations at CellarHand and had been taking part of the shipments for himself, then offloading the wine at discount prices to more than a dozen high-end Melbourne restaurants and retailers.

CellarHand’s Monday statement did not mention the deal, but Fairfax papers reported on Tuesday that a contract was believed to have been signed by both parties to finalise the settlement. This was that the matter will not be referred to police, and Quach will give his private wine collection to Walsh and undertake not to work in the wine industry for five years.

To this observer it seems that the Walshes have been extremely lenient, perhaps not wanting to ruin their former friend’s career, at the same time protecting some of their customers from the inconvenience of a potential police investigation. It seems Quach has been given a second chance.

Patrick Walsh has declined to discuss the matter further and considers it closed.

*For the full CellarHand statement click here.

8 thoughts on “Deal struck over CellarHand wine theft”

  1. Garry Barron says:

    This would be a good debate to have over a nice glass of wine.

  2. Huon Hooke
    Huon Hooke says:

    Jails are schools for criminality, they are overflowing and expensive to run. And they’re not effective at reforming people. I think there are other ways to punish people who don’t pose a physical danger to the community.

    1. Keith Hockly says:

      Typical leftard wrong thinking. I agree with Maureen and Caroline above. If he did go to jail that sends a clear message that stealing will be prosecuted and acts as a deterrent. As Maureen notes the message that is sent is that stealing is tolerated, like so many other things we should not be tolerating.

      1. Caroline Abraham says:

        Hear, hear Keith. Although I consider myself a ‘leftard’, I don’t agree with Huon on this one. We are certainly all entitled to our opinion but I think what CellarHand have done definitely sends out the wrong message and implies that there’s one rule for some and another for others. Very disappointed with them as not only does the punishment not fit the crime on this occasion but they are both negligent and irresponsible in not having referred the matter to the police.

  3. Garry Barron says:

    Agree with the two previous posters. If in my profession I was let off the regulatory authorities would pursue this matter. Mr Quach/his family are very fortunate as most industries/professions would not let him off.

  4. Maureen Downey says:

    This is exact;y what fuels more wine fraud. There is really no downside for the fraudsters. Even if caught, there is little to no punishment. CellarHands is to be thanked for supporting the world of fraud and inspiring fraudsters of the future. I am disgusted! BRAVO!

    1. Huon Hooke
      Huon Hooke says:

      I don’t believe jail is the right answer though. There has to be another way.

      1. Caroline Abraham says:

        Another way! He’s a thief! People go to jail when they steal or embezzle. The law is quite clear on this. This is sending a terrible message. Shame on you all.

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