French gendarmes smash fake Bordeaux wine ring

Police in France have uncovered a major Bordeaux wine counterfeiting operation, whilst attempting to bust a criminal network involved in the illicit drugs trade.

The enforcement operation took place towards the end of last month, according to local media reports, and resulted in the seizure of a large number of counterfeit bottles of Medoc wines as well as fake labels and printing machinery.

Prosecutors estimate that the gang may have distributed "several hundred thousand" fake bottles, bottling the fakes at night to try to keep the clandestine activity secret.

Around 20 individuals across several areas of France were arrested on suspicion of involvement in the criminal activity, with most occurring in the Gironde and Medoc regions. One of those taken into custody is reported to be the owner of a vineyard in the Medoc and wine broker, and is suspected to be the ringleader of the network.

The scam involved buying low-quality wine from other areas including Spain, then bottling it up as more expensive local produce, according to the Bordeaux prosecutor's office. There was evidence that large orders had bene placed by customers, including some overseas supermarkets.

Members of the ring have been indicated on charges including organised gang fraud, money laundering, goods deception, and falsification of foodstuffs, and have been released under judicial supervision on bail amounts of between €20,000 and €50,000.

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.

In 2020 the Conseil interprofessionnel du vin de Bordeaux (CIVB) organisation that represents the region's producers won a landmark lawsuit against a supplier in China who was selling fake bottles at a trade fair.

In February, another lawsuit was filed against three individuals involved in a Chinese wine production company, who started to sell fake Bordeaux after failing to make headway in the market with their own brands.

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