Spanish investigators raided a gang of counterfeiters who allegedly made a profit of over 1.5 million euros with counterfeit brand-name wines. Details of how their operation worked have now become public.

Investigators of the Spanish Guardia Civil confiscated thousands of fake wine labels as well as material and equipment for manufacturing counterfeit wines during six raids. The enforcement actions took place in the areas of A Coruña, Madrid, and Marbella as part of the so-called Operation Tag. The counterfeiting ring is said to have sold thousands of counterfeit upmarket wine bottles carrying the brands Pingus, Flor de Pingus, and Vega Sicilia Único since 2014, generating an estimated profit of more than 1.5 million euros. By now, four suspects have been arrested on charges including participation in a criminal organisation, intellectual property violations, money laundering, and crimes against public health. Four other suspects are still under investigation.

According to intelligence shared by the Guardia Civil, the counterfeiters bought cheap wine, often at less than 20 euros apiece, and then sold it as alleged premium wine – for up to about 1,900 euros per bottle. Among others, the counterfeiting ring is to have used an exclusive restaurant in the Galician city of A Coruña to run their operations. Here, they also conducted wine tastings to determine which of the cheap wines comes close in taste to the originals and can thus be used for their scheming. The fakes were distributed online via a website and an auction portal as well as through the luxury restaurant, which belongs to one of the suspects.

Eventually, a vigilant customer helped identifying the counterfeiters: a Danish wine buyer had reported several suspicious bottles to an affected winery, which in turn brought in the Spanish authorities last October.

Sources: Wine Spectator, El Correo