Police in Bordeaux have taken five men into custody on suspicion of stealing and selling on high-end wines including Petrus, Cheval Blanc, Ausone, Le Pin and Yquem.
The wines were stolen to order, then resold by a network that also fenced expensive cars and jewellery, a police statement said.
The men appeared in court last weekend in Libourne. Three of them were remanded in prison, awaiting trail, while the other two were placed on probation.
The gang’s latest wine haul, found in a warehouse on Bordeaux’s right bank at the end of May, was worth an estimated €300,000. The cases have now been returned to their owners.
‘One of the most important parts of this operation was identifying not only the robbers, but the fences they work with,’ a member of the investigative team, Colonel Frédéric Bonneval, told Decanter.com.
Two of the five men are suspected of stealing the wine, while the other three are suspected of fencing it, ie selling it on. One of the men was a former jeweller in Bordeaux.
Bonneval said that although there were no statistics to show wine robberies in Bordeaux were on the increase, rising prices for fine wines made trade in ‘parallel markets’ more attractive. ‘Fine wine robberies, however, remain a specialised business, it’s not just anyone that can do it,’ he said.
Earlier this month thieves stole 380 bottles of Chateau d’Yquem worth €125,000 from the chateau cellars. Bonneval said the two cases were not linked.
Written by Sophie Kevany in Bordeaux