International wine fraud ring uncovered in Spain

Spain’s media are reporting that an international ring of conspirators was uncovered by Spanish authorities earlier this month. Their crimes include adultering wine and spirits. 

From footage released by the Guardia Civil
From footage released by the Guardia Civil

Six people were arrested for wine fraud in Castilla-La Mancha and Madrid in mid-July, for criminal activity that may have been worth up to €100m. According to Spanish media reports, authorities have uncovered an international network of more than 60 companies involved in converting grain alcohol into products including adulterated wine.

Two alleged masterminds were arrested this month, along with four collaborators and 27 other people, for crimes including criminal organisation, smuggling, fraud and money laundering.

The operation to uncover the network – codenamed Isolu – was led by Customs Surveillance officials from Spain’s Tax Office in Castilla-La Mancha. They worked with agents from the Guardia Civil in Cuidad Real and began work in September 2018. 

The targets of their investigations were regional companies who were using unusual raw materials for wine and liquor production – the network allegedly used corn syrup (isoglucose) and grain alcohol (rather than wine alcohol) to create spirits and brandy.

According to reports, the isoglucose was transported from the Netherlands and Belgium into Spain. Along the way, the name of the product and the people handling it were changed on documents. When the isoglucose arrived in Spain, it was fermented or mixed with wine products. “The purpose of using isoglucose was to reduce costs, not to artificially increase the alcohol strength of the products,” said one report.

Altogether, a network of more than 60 legal entities and companies were involved, across Spain, Holland, Austria, Belgium, France, Moldova and Russia.

Illegal firearms were also discovered during the police searches, as were a number of luxury vehicles.

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