$4m Bordeaux wine fraudsters go on trial in France

Five suspects are on trial in France to answer allegations that they imported cheap Spanish wine and passed it off as more expensive vintages.

The scam – reported to have started in 2013 and continued until 2019 – involved 4.6 million bottles of Spanish wine and  generated an estimated $4 million in profits for the gang, according to a report in The Times newspaper.

The fraudulent wine was sold under a range of guises, from relatively cheap table wine to more expensive brands like Saint-Emilion Saint-Julien, Margaux and Pomerol, according to prosecutors. The offences could lead to prison sentences, although the Times suggests fines are more likely.

The activity is claimed to have resulted from a poor harvest that prompted people associated with Celliers Vinicoles du Blayais, a Bordeaux producer, to buy Spanism imports to fill gaps in orders.

Bordeaux wines are a perennial target for counterfeiters, although much of the copying takes place in China, the largest single market for wines from the region, snapping up 23 per cent of total production.

Another alleged wine fraud being pursued by the French authorities emerged in July, when around 20 individuals across several areas of France were arrested on suspicion of involvement a large-scale Bordeaux wine counterfeiting operation, including the owner of a vineyard in Medoc.

The defendants in that case stand accused of organised gang fraud, money laundering, goods deception, and falsification of foodstuffs.

Also this year, Spanish wine producer Grupo Reserva de la Tierra has been accused of large-scale fraud, passing off millions of cheap table wine as better quality vintages in a fraud that according to prosecutors were sold in supermarket chains including Lidl and Aldi.

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