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Fraudsters accused of conning wine merchant in €95,000 Petrus scam

Three alleged fraudsters have been arrested after they were accused of paying a merchant €95,000 in fake banknotes for a selection of high-end wines.

The gang made off with 18 bottles of Petrus 2000 and two bottles of Champagne in the alleged scam, according to the merchant.

Detectives arrested two men and a woman, who are said to be of Serbian origin, but they have not yet been able to recover the wines. The alleged gang members are due to go on trial next month.

The unnamed wine merchant, who is based in Hauts-de-Seine, told Le Parisien that he was approached by a prospective buyer in February.

The buyer claimed to be a middleman working for a Russian couple planning to spend a weekend in the French capital.

‘He seemed like a connoisseur,’ said the wine merchant. ‘He talked about a Petrus 2000, which is not an old wine.’

The buyer initially sought 12 bottles of Petrus 2000, which is one of the most celebrated vintages of one of the most prestigious wines from Bordeaux. He later upped his request to 18 bottles of Petrus and an additional two bottles of fine Champagne.

The self-employed wine merchant used various contacts to source the bottles. ‘That represented a colossal investment for me,’ he said. ‘But I didn’t imagine for a second that it was a fraud. The guy was clever. He had real knowledge.’

The merchant met a couple posing as the wealthy Russians at an upscale brasserie on Avenue des Ternes in Paris. After the meal, he handed over the wines from the boot of his car in exchange for a bag of banknotes.

He soon realised that they were fake, but the gang had already allegedly wheeled the wines around the corner in a trolley. ‘I got out of the car and ran like a donkey in the road to find my bottles,’ said the merchant, but his attempts to retrieve them were futile.

The merchant alerted the police, who have now made the arrests eight months later.

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