Controversial Italian billionaire Count Riccardo Agusta has sold his wine estate in Franschhoek for a reportedly record price of over R40-million. Grand Provence was sold to a consortium of European buyers.

Grand Provence consists of La Provence, said to be the oldest wine estate in the Franschhoek valley which Agusta bought in 1990, and the adjoining vineyard and winery of Haute Provence, which he bought in 1997. The properties have undergone major renovations and now include a restaurant and a luxury guesthouse.

Agusta also owns the neighbouring farm, La Terra du Luc. He bought it from another controversial Italian, Vito Palazzolo, in 1999.

Conditions of that sale reportedly included Palazzolo, who was imprisoned on money laundering charges in Switzerland in the 1980s and has changed his name to Robert von Pallace Kolbatshenko, being allowed to continue to live on the property.

Agusta, the heir to his late father Corrado's worldwide network of financial interests, hit the headlines last year when he paid a R1 million fine after pleading guilty to two charges of corruption relating to R400 000 that he paid to former provincial premier Peter Marais and former provincial planning minister David Malatsi.

Marais and Malatsi accepted the money on behalf of the New National Party in April 2002, around the time that Malatsi approved Agusta's controversial Roodefontein golf estate development in Plettenberg Bay.