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Was Chef Benoît Violier's Suicide the Result of a Massive Wine Scam?

Violier was allegedly the victim of a million dollar wine scam.

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Le restaurant de l'Hôtel de ville de Crissier/Facebook

After the suicide of Michelin-starred chef Benoît Violier rocked the culinary world last week, many speculated as to why the acclaimed chef would choose to end his life amidst a blossoming career at one of the world's best restaurants. According to The Telegraph, it appears as though the chef at the helm of Switzerland's three Michelin-starred Restaurant de l'Hotel de Ville was involved in a huge wine scam that left him in financial trouble.

Bilan, a Swiss financial magazine, alleges that chef Violier was the victim of a ponzi scheme set up by a Sion-based wine company named Private Finance Partners. The company, who traded rare wines, apparently sold bottles ranging from $20,000 to $40,000 to several restaurants, including Violier's, but never delivered them. Bilan claims that after the company declared bankruptcy on November 30, Restaurant de l'Hotel de Ville's losses were estimated to be anywhere from $800,000 to $2 million.

However, Violier's friend and a shareholder at the Restaurant de l'Hotel de Ville, André Kudelski, rejects the article's allegations. He recently stated, "The restaurant has no issues with the company in the [Bilan] article and did not lose any money. The restaurant was absolutely not touched and the Violier family had nothing to do with this affair. The restaurant is full. It is better than in any previous year. It is a record year. The restaurant has a very solid financial base." The restaurant's success did appear to be steadily climbing, as it was just named the best in the world by La Liste. At the time, Violier said of the accolade, "It's wonderful, it's exceptional for us. This ranking will only motivate our team more."

The 44-year old French chef, who was found dead in his home in Crissier, Switzerland on January 29 with a hunting rifle nearby, did not leave a suicide note, leaving the reasons behind his untimely death up to speculation. Although the article in Bilan points to financial struggles, others point to the stress and pressure of perfection as the reason for the suicide. While the world mourned his death — over 1,500 people attended his funeral — his restaurant reopened after just two days when his wife, who helped Violier run his restaurant for the past four years, announced "the show must go on."

Video: Watch Benoît Violier's Interview About His Career at Restaurant de l'Hotel de Ville