Drinks wholesaler Fernbrew in liquidation after fakes scandal

Australian wholesaler Fernbrew has gone into liquidation and is facing a big tax bill amid allegations of supplying counterfeit spirits.

Fernbrew is part of the New South Wales drinks company D’Aquino Brothers – run by Rex D'Aquino – which is reported to be facing tax bill “substantially” in excess of A$87m ($61m) for unpaid duties after an investigation by the Australian authorities into the sale of fake Scotch whisky and tequila, according to an ABC report.

Also in liquidation is Hunter Wine Services, a contract winemaking company and another part of the D’Aquino stable.

A trademark infringement lawsuit was filed against another D’Aquino unit and “other parties” last year by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA), alleging the sale of alcohol wrongly labelled as Scotch in breach of Australian and international trademark laws.

Meanwhile, Fernbrew – which went into administration earlier this year – has been accused of supplying counterfeit Reeba Reeba tequila in Mexico, along with D’Aquino which sold a brand called Blue Cactus. Under trademark laws, a product can only be called tequila if it is made in Mexico.

Rex D’Aquino has been referred to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) at the recommendation of administrator KordaMentha, which says the federal authority should investigate him for potential civil and criminal violations of the Corporations Act.

He has run into problems with the authorities before, having been fined in 1999 in connection with smuggling of alcohol into Australia, and was ordered by a federal court to stop sell and/or marketing counterfeit Scotch in 2006, 2009 and 2012.

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