Valentine’s day sting takes out fake wine producers

Police in Italy swooped on a criminal gang that counterfeited at least 11,000 bottles of premium red wine yesterday.

The Valentine’s day operation was the culmination of a two-year operation by the Italian NAS Carabinieri, supported by Europol, against a “sophisticated criminal network” involved in counterfeiting trademarks and distinctive labels owned by a high-quality group of Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT) wines protected by the Italian government. The fakes included bottles claiming to be Antinori Toscana Tignanello 2009, 2010 and 2011 vintages.

The gang counterfeited bottles and boxes of premium wines and filled them with cheap substitute, selling the fakes both in Italy and overseas markets including Belgium and Germany. The boces were printed in Italy but the labels were imported from China.

The activity first came to the attention of the authorities in Italy after an order was placed at a print shop in Pistoia to reproduce and print 4,500 wine labels. The order was made by a man on behalf of a company which later turned out to be fake.

Nine people were investigated and three arrested; one in prison and two under house arrest, says Europol in a statement.

“The operation revealed that two of the arrestees are part of the same family and had been using their own company as a way to cover their tracks. The business also sold sports products online as a way to mislead consumers of their activities.”

As well as the counterfeit wine bottles, police also discovered at least 3,000 corks and around 10,000 laminate caps, as well as a bottling and capping machine.

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