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Arrests Made in $2.7m Romanée-Conti Fraud Ring

Arrests Made in $2.7m Romanée-Conti Fraud Ring
© AFP
At least 400 fake bottles of one of the world's most expensive wines have been produced by organized gang.

A father and son team have been arrested on suspicion of producing and selling fake bottles of Romanée-Conti worth as much as two million euros ($2.7m)

The two Italians were arrested on October 16 in connection with a large counterfeiting operation involving one of Burgundy’s most coveted wines, the chief constable of Dijon announced on Monday.

During an operation conducted across Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, the U.K. and Cyprus, 20 homes and warehouses were simultaneously searched. In total, seven people were arrested and interviewed.

To date, it's been discovered that “at least 400 bottles of wine were fraudulently sold for a sum of around two million euros,” Dijon’s public prosecutor, Marie-Christine Tarrare, announced in a statement.

It is believed that the father and son team work in the wine industry, and were arrested in an operation involving Europe-wide crime agencies Europol and Eurojust. A search of the home of one of the suspects uncovered materials used for counterfeiting, strengthening the charges against them.

The investigation began in late 2012, after the owners of Domaine de La Romanée-Conti filed an official complaint alleging that there were fake bottles of its wine in circulation.

On investigating the DRC complaint, the police soon seized 69 counterfeit bottles. The fakes were confirmed by government laboratory tests in Montpellier. They "concluded that wines in the bottles were of mediocre quality, with 'very poor sensory qualities,' and were a blend of several wines of indeterminate origin."

Inquiries by the fraud office later uncovered an organized counterfeiting ring.

Planted on a plot of just 1.81 hectares, the Romanée-Conti vineyard is wholly owned by DRC. Producing just 6,000 bottles annually, its wines are among the most sought-after in the world, with single bottles fetching thousands, if not tens of thousands, of dollars.

While the investigation is ongoing, “other suspects are being sought in order to uncover the entire counterfeiting chain,” added the prosecutor. “It is not yet possible to say precisely how many fake bottles are in the market.”

French authorities are now calling for the extradition of the Italian duo, Tarrare said. If convicted, they could be imprisoned for up to 10 years.

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