Stokkete /
12 September 2014Trademarks

Italian police put cork in wine counterfeiting scam

Police in the Italian region of Tuscany have thwarted a plot to sell more than 200,000 fake bottles of local red wine Brunello di Montalcino.

An unnamed Tuscan man who had obtained fake labels and certification documents was reportedly selling counterfeit products in bulk to local producers.

Officers in Tuscan city Siena said the 220,000 bottles would have sold for around €5 million ($6.5 million) had they reached the market.

The authorities, which were notified by the individual’s suspicious activities last year, have now seized the bottles and are investigating the man. However, he is believed to have been assisted with the scam.

Siena police chief Luca Albertario told the Agence France-Presse that “it's the biggest fraud ever carried out in the agricultural and food sector”.

The Brunello di Montalcino consortium of winemakers and the Tuscany region have said they will sue for damages.

Albertario said that without the police’s intervention, fake Brunello di Montalcino wines would have been found “on the tables of half the restaurants in the world”.

Data from the Italian Farmers Association, Coldiretti, show that 70% of the wine is exported abroad, with US, Asia and Central America the biggest markets.

The case comes a month after a man in the US was sentenced to ten years in prison for defrauding wine collectors of millions of dollars.

Rudy Kurniawan, also known as “Dr Conti”, was engaged in what the FBI called a “systematic scheme” to defraud wine collectors by making and selling fake bottles of purportedly rare and expensive wines. He was ordered to forfeit $20 million and pay restitution to his victims, an amount totalling more than $28 million.

Brunello di Montalcino wine is typically left to age in oak for two years, followed by at least four months in a bottle, before it is ready for sale.

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