French customs accused of stealing wine
- Thursday 13 October 2005
Customs officials confiscated ‘a large amount’ of wine from the cellars of Bordeaux cru bourgeois Château Tour Seran in 1999 as part of an inquiry into fraud, mis-labelling and embezzlement.
But when documents concerning the confiscated wine were presented to the local court recently, lawyers for the defendant – the château’s previous owner – found a discrepancy. The equivalent of 215,237 bottles, worth around €800,000 (£548,417), was missing.
‘I don’t know of any precedent in such a case,’ one of the lawyers, Jean-Michel Cazenave, told French newspaper Le Monde. ‘An error of €10,000 can happen, for example, in filling out the documents, but €800,000 – that’s no longer a mistake.’
Now, the lawyers for the accused believe customs ‘helped themselves’ to the wine or sold it on. They are demanding the authorities return the missing wine or pay the €800,000.
The lawyers have lodged an independent action for damages with the Bordeaux authorities.
Customs say that the wine has been returned. The château’s former owners were fined €2.5m (£1.7m) in the original court action.
Château Tour Seran has been under new management since 2000. Its current owner, Jean Guyon, also runs Château Rollan de By – also a cru bourgeois.