Police in Champagne have arrested 15 individuals under suspicion of stealing thousands of official ‘CRD’ capsule stickers.
The arrests were made in a 6am sting operation carried out last Wednesday.
The ringleaders, identified only as David and Eric, have been indicted for the theft of 109,000 CRD capsules (capsules représentatives des droits) – the colour-coded round stickers on top of wine bottles sold in France that prove that tax has been paid on the bottle.
The capsules came from two companies specialising in their manufacture: Sparflex, located in the industrial area of Dizy, and AMCOR Flexibles in Mareuil-sur-Ay, Champagne police representative Nicolas Weimer told Decanter.com.
‘The CRD capsule is like a revenue stamp,’ he said. ‘Champagne producers declare the number of bottles they intend to sell in France and then must pay for the appropriate number of CRD capsules for their declared volume.’
Stolen capsules could be used to mask lower quality wine or to sell undeclared wines, Weimer said.
Some 5,000 of the stolen capsules have been recovered from the three burglaries that occurred between July 2010 to March 2012.
Two Champagne producers are under suspicion of using the stolen capsules, but police could not identify them because the investigation is ongoing.
L’Union Champagne Ardenne Picardie reported that French customs discovered 14,000 bottles of non-declared Champagne, which linked one Champagne producer with some of the stolen CRD capsules.
It was also reported that another producer is under suspicion for having cooperated with the thieves: 40,000 litres of undeclared wine was discovered at that property.
Written by Panos Kakaviatos