The 52-year-old head of the gang behind a spate of wine thefts at top Bordeaux chateaux has received a four year prison sentence, along with his 27-year-old nephew, after stealing 1m euros worth of wine in 18 burglaries.

The wine theft were reported to have run from June 2013 until February 2015, and concerned some of the most prestigious estates in Bordeaux from across the Médoc, Pomerol and Saint Emilion with up to 3,700 bottles in total.

The bottles were then resold for around one third to one half of their retail value, with the gang receiving around €350,000.

In total 20 suspects were tried at the court in Bordeaux last week. Besides the ringleaders, two were found guilty of receiving and selling on stolen goods and were given 18 months in prison, while an owner of a restaurant in Lormont, on the outskirts of Bordeaux, received two years for handling stolen goods. Three wine enthusiasts who bought cases ‘without sufficiently questioning their origin, and then selling on some bottles’ in the words of Denis Roucou, president of the Bordeaux Tribunal, were given six month suspended sentences.

In total three groups, working across Bordeaux, Biarritz and in the Tarn-et-Garonne region near Toulouse, were identified by investigators.

‘This was a well run operation with a clear network between the thieves and those who stood to gain from placing the wines’, said Roucou.

The suspects were arrested on February 10 following an investigation by 300 officers across the southwest of France.

The crimes all followed a similar pattern, with wine taken at night, then loaded into a stolen car which was later burnt by the gang leaders to cover their tracks.

See related stories: