Five people have been convicted for a wine fraud which saw 35,000 hectolitres of Spanish wine – that’s roughly 4.6 million bottles – passed off as French, some claiming to be high-quality bottles of Bordeaux, including Margaux and Médoc.
The group, who operated between 2014 and 2016, were handed a collective fine of €670,000 by the Tribunal Judiciaire de Bordeaux, as well as other penalties, bringing the total charges to an estimated €1m. Jean-Sebastien Laflèche was ordered to serve a two-year jail sentence and Michel Gilin was sentenced to 20 months in prison, although both will serve part of their sentence at home with electronic tags. They are banned from working in the wine trade for five years.
Daniel Banchereau and Sylvie Bernard were given suspended sentences and fines of €12,000; and Fabien Figerou, who ran the cellars where the fraudulent bottling was carried out, was found guilty of transporting undocumented wine.
The wine was brought by lorry from Spain to France, where it was bottled and false paperwork was made up. The scam took place in a period when wine yields were low – and so fake wine was brought in to keep up with demand from customers. But some in the wine industry have argued that those convicted were just pawns in the fraud, and the real criminals, who bossed the scheme, are still at large.
Dominic Techer, spokesperson for the agricultural trade union Confédération Paysanne, said: ““Everyone knows how it was, in 2013, 2014, running out of wine. People gave orders saying ‘you get me some wine’. It’s an open secret. Those people were not prosecuted in this lawsuit.”
A spokesperson for the Conseil Interprofessionnel du Vin de Bordeaux, however, said it was satisfied with the court’s actions.
The fraud was unearthed when police officers in the Gironde found equipment for printing fake wine labels and other suspicious paraphernalia during an unrelated drugs raid.