Spanish authorities tackled an illegal network they believe to be one of the largest counterfeiting rings for whiskey. The organization was internationally connected and allegedly faked and distributed whiskey worth millions.

Officials of the Spanish Guardia Civil and the Spanish tax authority Agencia Tributaria seized around 47,700 liters of counterfeit whiskey, allegedly produced by a Spanish-Asian counterfeiting syndicate. The authorities estimate that the imitated original manufacturer would have suffered a potential damage of around 3.8 million euros if the counterfeiters had put the now confiscated goods into circulation; the fraudsters themselves would presumably have raked in around 800,000 euros.

The network, which operated at two locations in Spain, is reportedly one of the largest counterfeiting operations for fake whiskey to have been identified in Spain in recent years. The officials found numerous counterfeits at its professional production facilities. In total, they seized around 300,000 counterfeit whiskey bottles, more than 171,000 counterfeit tax stamps, ca. 18,400 capsules, and more than 27,000 cardboard boxes illicitly marked with the logo of a well-known whiskey brand. They also confiscated around 9,500 liters of alcohol for producing the counterfeits, 11,200 liters of whiskey waiting to be bottled, and another circa 36,500 liters of whiskey that had already been bottled.

At the first location in La Rioja in Northern Spain, the alcohol mixtures for the counterfeit whiskey were produced and bottled. The second location of the criminal organization, in Ciudad Real near Madrid, was operated by an Asian businessman who allegedly imported counterfeit tax stamps and fake glass bottles, labels, and caps of a well-known brand from China. The imported counterfeit bottles and caps were then transported from Ciudad Real to La Rioja for bottling; and from there back to Ciudad Real, where labels and seals were then applied.

The seizure by the Spanish authorities was the result of the so-called Operation Fuco, which started back in the summer of 2020. Now, 14 people aged 37 to 52 are under investigation.

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Sources: Guardia Civil, Food Safety News, Whisky Experts