A French wine maker has been sentenced to two years in prison and fined €8 million after being convicted of selling poor quality wine to major supermarket chains.
Francois-Marie Marret was found guilty of mixing inferior wine with high-end Saint-Emilions, Pomerols and Listrac-Medocs, He and his co-accused referred to the resultant plonk as “moon wines”, on account of the fact that they transported it at night.
In total, eight people were sentenced over the scam, during which the low quality wine was sold to large retailers including Intermarche and Auchan.
Wine merchant Vincent Lataste was handed a £4,500 fine and an 18-month suspended jail sentence. His company was fined £27,000, of which half was suspended. Two wine brokers and three producers of the lesser wines also stood trial over the fraud.
Marret, 55, said he would appeal the fine and jail term, telling reporters: “Such a verdict is completely abnormal. I never sold anything but wine from my property.”
The men were convicted after a report from Europol and Interpol revealed the true extent of global food fraud – a multibillion dollar criminal industry in which food and drink products are mislabelled. In a four-month operation across 57 countries, the two law enforcement agencies seized more than 11,000 tonnes of food and 1,440,000 litres of drinks.
A report on operation OPSON V, which was published last week, revealed that condiments are the most faked foodstuff globally, making up 66% of all items seized. Vegetables and fruit came in second, accounting for 15% of the goods the two organisations recovered.
The operation also revealed that alcohol remains a target for food and drink fraudsters, with inspectors impounding 385,000 litres of illicit booze and dismantling a number of sophisticated alcohol factories.
The probe revealed a new type of food fraud that involves criminals using copper sulphate to enhance the look and feel of food products. The practice came to light during a raid at a factory in Italy, where investigator’s seized 85 tonnes of olives that had been coloured by the substance.
According to the report, the treatment has two advantages for fraudsters. It helps them achieve a more intense and uniform colour on all fruits, and allows them to recycle olives produced in previous years which had lost their original colour.
“Today’s rising food prices and the global nature of the food chain offer the opportunity for criminals to sell counterfeit and substandard food in a multibillion criminal industry, which can pose serious potential health risks to unsuspecting customers,” Chris Vansteenkiste, Cluster Manager of the Intellectual Property Crime Team at Europol, said earlier this year.
“The complexity and scale of this fraud means co-operation needs to happen across borders with a multi-agency approach.”