Raids by UK police have uncovered thousands of bottles of suspected stolen wine and raised questions about a possible organised crime ring.
On Thursday 20 July, officers from Serious and Organised Crime Unit of the Kent Police raided two warehouses – one in Goudhurst Road, Horsmonden, the other in nearby Tibbs Court Lane, Brenchley.
They found a large amount of allegedly stolen goods – thousands of bottles of wine, along with flat screen TVs, marble tiles and air conditioning units. The identity of the wines was not available.
There are 127 palettes of ‘stolen’ loot, filling 4 HGV lorries. The police are now busy identifying the owners of these wines and other goods.
A 26-year-old man from Horsmonden has been arrested and bailed until 17th August.
The raids follow multiple complaints from at least 20 companies from outside the UK.
For at least ten years criminals have targeted wine producers in France, Italy and other parts of Europe. Typically producers are contacted by email by someone falsely posing to work for a legitimate UK wine business.
Orders are placed, wine dispatched but frequently diverted on route to a new destination where it disappears, while payment bounces.
Detective Inspector Annie Clayton said: ‘We have received multiple complaints from victims who have alleged they have lost goods due to fraud and that these goods were delivered to storage facilities in west Kent; which have now been searched.
‘This is a complex investigation, which is being assisted by our partners at Interpol and the Metropolitan Police and which has so far resulted in the recovery of vast amounts of property we believe has been obtained by fraudulent means. The Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate is committed to tackling those who facilitate organised crime in Kent and we are investigating allegations, which are on a very significant scale.’
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