Authorities in Italy dismantle a counterfeiting operation that presumably imitated and sold Italian fine wines on a grand scale. The investigation started due to a curious coincidental find – and now provides insights into the international network of counterfeiters.

Officials of the Italian Guardia di Finanza have currently taken action against a large-scale counterfeiting ring for Italian luxury wines. The investigators seized a total of 4,200 fake bottles of the premium wine Doc Bolgheri Sassicaia from Tuscany. Two suspects have been arrested and eleven further persons are under investigation.

According to media reports, the counterfeiters are said to have distributed fakes of the fine wine worldwide, for which they had closely imitated the labels of the wine, including a registered quality seal. They focused on the 2010 to 2015 vintages of the noble wine, which enjoy an excellent reputation. The two men now arrested were presumably responsible for bottling the wines. The fraudsters used wine from Sicily for their counterfeits. The bottles, however, came from Turkey, while the labels and wooden crates came from Bulgaria. The counterfeiters reportedly generated a total of around 400,000 euros per month.

A curious chance find was essential for attracting the authorities’ attention: “The investigation began by chance when two members of the Guardia di Finanza, came upon a case of the fake wine on a street in Empoli, in Tuscany, which had probably fallen from a truck”, said Giuseppe Creazzo, Chief Prosecutor in Florence, according to media reports during a press conference. In this box, the authorities then found two cell phone numbers, which formed the starting point of the investigations.

The inquiries then culminated in the successful raid in mid-October. Next to thousands of fake bottles of wine, the officials also seized about 80,000 fake labels, bottles, corks, and wooden boxes. The counterfeiting gang allegedly planned to fill a further 6,600 bottles with which they could have earned two million euros. Also, a total of 41 crates of the 2015 vintage of the wine were ready for export.

Customers in China, Korea, and Russia reportedly had already ordered thousands of cases of the wines; at a price about 70 percent below the market value of the originals. The majority of the counterfeits had been intended for export; only a small proportion of the fakes had been sold in Italy.

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Sources: der-winzer.at, Guardian, stol.it