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Bordeaux court convicts suspects in major wine fraud case

A scheme believed to have involved millions of litres of Spanish wine being falsely passed off as French has led to convictions in a Bordeaux court, with local media reporting prison sentences and hundreds of thousands of euros in penalties.

Five people were convicted by the Tribunal Judiciaire de Bordeaux on 26 January for their role in the wine fraud, with collective penalty of €670,000 (£589,000) among fines announced by the court, according to media outlet France Bleu.

It’s estimated that nearly 35,000 hectolitres of Spanish wine – equivalent to around 4.6 million bottles – was brought across the border into France in tankers as part of a large-scale fraud operation that began in 2014 and continued through 2016.

The wine was subsequently passed off as French, and some bottles falsely used Bordeaux appellation names, as previously reported.

In its ruling last week, the Bordeaux court issued several other fines and financial charges and wine industry publication Vitisphere said the total financial penalties topped €1m.

One of the defendants received a two-year prison sentence and another was sentenced to 20 months. However, 50% of both sentences was suspended, and the terms would be served at home via electronic tagging, France Bleu reported.

Lawyers for some of the defendants were quoted as criticising the punishments’ severity. Those convicted were given 10 days to lodge an appeal against the court’s decision.

A spokesperson for Bordeaux’s wine council, the CIVB, told Decanter, ‘The CIVB is satisfied with the conviction of the fraudsters who damaged the image of Bordeaux and misled consumers.’

The CIVB was one of several civil parties to join the state prosecution in the case.

Yann Le Goaster, director of another civil party in the case, the Fédération des Grands Vins de Bordeaux (FGVB), said the group was satisfied that the court’s rulings reflected the seriousness of the established facts, as well as ‘the consequences of these fraudulent practices on the image of Bordeaux wines as well as for consumers cheated’.

Following an earlier court hearing, Le Goaster told Decanter via email that the FGVB joined the case to help protect both producers and consumers.

But he added that only a very small minority of wine implicated in the investigation used a Bordeaux appellation name. Most of the wine carried no geographic indication.

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