Counterfeiters caught in northern and southern Italy

Italian police strike three times in different operations in July

Italian police strike three times in different operations in July  / Credit: Shjmyra/Fotolia
Italian police strike three times in different operations in July / Credit: Shjmyra/Fotolia

The Guardia di Finanza of Treviso, with the support of colleagues from Conegliano, seized about 5,000 liters of wine and over a ton of sugar on 26 July 2021. 

The operation, called "Opson X," came about after joint investigations by Interpol and Europol. Opson is the name of all operations that take place in the context of the fight against fraud and counterfeiting in the food sector and are coordinated through the cooperation of international authorities. 

In the tenth Opson operation, inspectors first stopped a truck in Codognè (province of Treviso) that was carrying 396 bottles of white wine without a label or indication of origin. The wine came from a local winery and was to be sold in Turin. During checks at the winery in question, another 3,500 liters of bottled wine were confiscated, as well as over a ton of sugar. 

During a second raid, Guardia di Finanza officers again stopped a truck containing 984 bottles of white wine declared as Prosecco. A winery from the municipality of Belluno wanted the load delivered to an address in Valdobbiadene. Another 1,185 liters of alleged Prosecco were seized at this winery.

Dark Drink in Southern Italy

Operation Dark Drink, which also took place in July, is evidence of a higher caliber of criminality. Inspectors from the Central Agency for the Protection of Quality and the Fight against Fraud in Agricultural Products (ICQRF) and the Guardia di Finanza of Naples carried out raids and seizures of "alcoholic products" in Campania and Puglia. 

According to information from the Naples North Prosecutor's Office in charge, the operation was based on investigations by the ICQRF "into high quantities of denatured alcohol imported from abroad, as well as disinfectants used for the production of alcoholic beverages." 

Products had already been confiscated in advance as part of these investigations. Their analysis proved that denatured alcohol was in use, which is normally used for industrial purposes and disinfectants. It does not have to be taxed upon importation, unlike potable alcohol.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture's press release, during Operation Dark Drink, inspectors seized 2,800 liters of alcohol, 9,000 bottles of spirits and "a large quantity of champagne and wine packages" of well-known brands.

"The searches allowed for a detailed reconstruction of the activities carried out in a well-organized and structured 'industrial context,'" the agriculture ministry said. 

The criminal organization had also been active in the field of counterfeiting state seals and basic food products. Thus, not only were 900 bottles of extra virgin olive oil seized, but printing plants and commercial warehouses were also searched, where 300,000 counterfeit state seals were seized. In addition, inspectors found numerous printing forms for printing fake labels to be pasted on the illegal products.

In the Prosecco production area, the Tribuna di Treviso and the Trevisotoday portal claim to have learned, in relation to Operation Dark Drink, that 10,000 bottles (Tribuna di Treviso) or 9,000 bottles (Trevisotoday) of Prosecco were sold as champagne. No connection between Prosecco and Operation Dark Drink can be found in the official documents, nor do the newspapers in the affected regions of Puglia and Campania give any indication.

False IGP Puglia

In Puglia, there was another raid in July. The Guardia Finanza of Foggia, with the inspectors of the central authority ICQRF, Bari branch, confiscated 917,205 liters of wine and must illegally labeled as IGP Puglia and with false grape variety indications.

The Foggia winery involved is also accused of having already illegally marketed over 1.5 million liters of counterfeit IGT wines labeled as Primitivo, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Falanghina and Merlot. 

Charges have been filed against eight individuals for trade fraud, falsification of geographical indications or designations of origin for agricultural products, and falsification of registers, other indications and computer documents. Six of the accused are supplying wine growers who allegedly falsified their harvest registers. vc



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