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French producers stung by UK-based fraudsters

Conmen posing as UK wine merchants have tricked French winegrowers into handing over thousands of bottles of stock in a copycat repeat of a scam last year which netted crooks an estimated £1m.

The ongoing fraud began in March, with producers in all the principal wine-making regions targeted by bogus representatives of merchants Berry Bros & Rudd, Thorman Hunt & Co, Liberty Wines, Stainton Wines and Wine and Beer World.

The companies have notified British police and warned French winemakers to be on their guard.

One producer, who asked not to be named, told decanter.com how he was duped last month into sending the London-based fraudsters a shipment of vintage Vouvray worth more than €70,000 (£62,000), which he believed was destined for Thorman Hunt. He later discovered the transporter was rerouted to an address in North London.

‘This is a very grave loss for us, and there are undoubtedly many others out there like us,’ he said.

Thorman Hunt office manager Camille Relandeau told decanter.com the scam affected every major production region. ‘We’ve received queries about these fraudulent orders from all over France, at a rate of several per day,’ she said.

The perpetrators present fake order forms with logos and headings copied from company websites. decanter.com has seen examples of correspondence in which phone contacts are changed to UK mobile numbers, unrecognisable in France, and producers are asked to reply to the bogus representative’s private email address.

Written by Graham Tearse

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