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Bordeaux Liber Pater winemaker found guilty of fraud

The producer of Bordeaux's rare Liber Pater wine, Loïc Pasquet, has been found guilty of defrauding authorities of almost 600,000 euros in EU funding - but he plans to appeal the ruling.

Loïc Pasquet, winemaker of Liber Pater that is sold for prices of up to €3,000, was found guilty of defrauding the European Union of almost €600,000 in aid and grants for promoting his wine.

A Bordeaux tribunal gave Pasquet, whose eight hectares of vines are located in AOC Graves, a 12 month suspended sentence along with an immediate fine of €30,000 – although €20,000 of this was suspended.

The news comes only two months after Pasquet saw 500 of his vines vandalised, expressing anger that it was an attack on one of Bordeaux’s ‘historical treasures’. There was no suggestion at the tribunal that the two events were linked.

At the tribunal hearing, Pasquet was accused of falsifying receipts that showed promotional work and tastings that he had undertaken for Liber Pater in China, Russia and Brazil six years ago.

For this, he received €592,000 worth of grants that were applied for through France Agrimer and granted by the European Union.

Pasquet was also accused of contravening local winemaking rules by planting his vines at 20,000 vines per hectare, and not properly filing documentation over chaptilisation.

The court found that Pasquet had used a large part of the grant money to open a company in Shanghai, but there was insufficient proof that it had really carried out the work suggested, including production of promotional videos and attendance of tastings and wine fairs.

Pasquet’s defense lawyer, Michel Herlemont, accused this company of taking the promotional bottles of Liber Pater that had been sent to China, but the judge remained unconvinced.

‘Yesterday I was not able to prove that I am not guilty,’ Pasquet told Decanter.com. ‘But I will be appealing. In 2010 I was granted the right to plant at 20,000 vines per hectare by the INAO, and now I am being told that it is illegal. It is simply proof to me that in Bordeaux today no one has the right to be different.’

Mayeul l’Huillier, director of the winemaking syndicate of Graves, said that he was waiting to hear more about the circumstances before reaching any conclusions.

Some merchants were supportive of Pasquet. Jeffrey Davies, an American négociant who has worked with Pasquet for some time, said, ‘I have travelled to China several times with Loïc and suggest that this case is motivated by local jealousies.’

Updated 18 January 2016. The fine was €30,000, not €10,000 as originally stated.

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