On 14 February, Europol supported an action day coordinated by the Italian NAS Carabinieri. The coordinated action dismantled a sophisticated criminal network involved in counterfeiting trademarks and distinctive labels of a famous winery in Florence, Italy, as well as counterfeiting at least 11 000 bottles of red wine. The bottles, claiming to belong to the high-quality group of IGT wines protected by the Italian government, actually contained a lower quality wine.
Nine people were investigated and three arrested; one in prison and two under house arrest. The operation revealed that two of the arrestees are part of the same family and had been using their own company as a way to cover their tracks. The business also sold sports products online as a way to mislead consumers of their activities.
The Florence and Cremona units of the Italian NAS Carabinieri initiated the investigation in February 2017, after an order was placed at a print shop in Pistoia to reproduce and print 4 500 wine labels. The order was made by a man on behalf of a company, which later turned out to be fake.
During the investigations, Carabinieri discovered at least 3 000 corks and around 10 000 laminate caps, as well as a bottling and capping machine. The modus operandi was to prepare bottles of low-quality wine and once ready, would sell them to the Italian and international markets, primarily in Belgium and Germany. The company printing the boxes for the bottles of wine was located in Italy and the labels were found to be ordered from China.
Europol coordinated the operation from the beginning and cooperated with the German and the Italian law enforcement authorities by providing operational and analytical support as well as information exchange. This operation has once again shown that criminal groups have no limits and will counterfeit any sort of beverage with no thought of the harmful consequences to human health as long as they continue to profit.