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Police raids reveal suspected DRC wine fraud ring

A Europe-wide police operation has uncovered a suspected organised crime network believed to be responsible for selling up to EUR2m-worth (US$2.7m) of fake Domaine de la Romanee-Conti wine.

Bottles of DRC 1990 – not part of the investigation

Police in several countries raided 20 premises last week, including both homes and warehouses. European police network Europol co-ordinated the raids alongside EU judicial body Eurojust.

Seven arrests were made, according to a statement issued by the state prosecutor of the Tribunal de Grande Instance in Dijon, France.

It said the key suspects were an unnamed father and son team in Italy, both of whom work in the wine sector.

At least 400 bottles of counterfeit Domaine de la Romanee-Conti (DRC) are believed to have been sold by a criminal network, representing a value of up to EUR2m, the Dijon prosecutor’s office said.

But, it cautioned that ‘at this stage of the investigation, it is not possible to say precisely how many bottles have been released on the market’.

No specific details on the counterfeit wines were given. For reference, the prosecution noted that bottles of 2008 and 2009 vintage DRC were on sale for up to EUR9,000 (US$12,000). At several merchants, including Fine & Rare and Seckford in the UK, a 75cl bottle of DRC Grand Cru was this week on sale for around GBP9,000.

Authorities in Dijon began investigating earlier this year following a tip-off from DRC itself at the end of 2012.

Subsequent tests on suspected counterfeit DRC wine found on sale in France showed that bottles contained ‘very poor quality’ wine of mixed origin.

As part of the operation, authorities in Dijon consulted their counterparts in the UK, Cyprus, Italy, Germany and the Netherlands.

‘The first transactions involving counterfeit wine took place in Italy, and links to Russia, Hong Kong, Belize and Switzerland were identified through actors involved, companies and bank accounts,’ said Europol and Eurojust in a joint statement. The investigation is ongoing.

Written by Chris Mercer

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