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Fake DRC wine: Prosecutor demands prison for alleged gang member

One of the alleged ringleaders in an organised crime gang that sold 400 bottles of fake DRC wines in Europe should be sentenced to at least two years in prison with a hefty fine, a state prosecutor has argued at a court hearing in Burgundy. But a defence lawyer denied his client's involvement in the plot.

A French state prosecutor accused a Russian defendant of being a key member of an organised fraud ring that sold 400 bottles of fake Domaine de la Romanée-Conti wines across Europe between 2012 and 2014, according to several French media reports.

Speaking at a court hearing in Dijon, Burgundy, last week, prosecutor Marie-Christine Tarrare called for the defendant to get a three-year prison sentence, with a guarantee of at least two years behind bars. She asked the court to fine him 100,000 euros.

She also called for two of his alleged fellow gang members, both from Italy, to get one-year suspended prison sentences and a fine of 50,000 euros each.

All three are accused of helping to sell around 400 bottles of wine carrying fake Romanée-Conti labels, as well as several bottles of falsely labelled Domaine Leroy Musigny grand cru wines.

A defence lawyer for the accused Russian denied that his client was involved in orchestrating the fraud. He called for a full acquittal.

Fraud is a recurring theme in the fine wine world and Burgundy’s DRC wines have been a frequent target due their lauded quality and rarity.

DRC’s co-owner, Aubert de Villaine, said last week that wine fraud in Europe deserved more attention and warned against an assumption that fake wine is a bigger problem in China.

‘It is the forgeries that are being made in Europe that are more worrying than those in China, simply because they are extremely sophisticated and often more difficult to spot,’ he told an audience at Bordeaux’s Cité du Vin wine centre.

‘We live in a time when these forgeries are a fact of life, and so for us the best thing is to very closely control our distribution and follow each bottle. Our repeated suggestion is to only ever buy from official distribution channels,’ he said.

Extra reporting by Jane Anson in Bordeaux.

Stay tuned on Decanter.com for William Kelley’s report of a DRC tasting taking place in London this week.

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