At least 11,000 bottles of red wine have been seized in Italy for containing a lower quality wine. Europol officials said criminal groups will counterfeit any beverage with no thought of the harmful consequences to human health as long as they continue to profit.

Europol and the Italian NAS Carabinieri dismantled a criminal network involved in counterfeiting trademarks and labels of a winery in Florence called Marchesi Antinori S.p.a. as well as counterfeiting the red wine.

The bottles, claiming to belong to the high-quality group of IGT Toscana wines under the Tignanello brand protected by the Italian government, actually contained wine of a lower quality purchased elsewhere or from different origins. The Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT) mark is used to indicate wines produced in large areas that meet requirements specified by law.

Nine people were investigated and three arrested; one in prison and two under house arrest. Two of those arrested are mother and son and used their own company which also sold sports products online to mislead consumers.

The Florence and Cremona units of the Italian NAS Carabinieri started investigating 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 who called himself “Mr. Rossi” on behalf of a company called AB Comunicazione, which was unaware of the incident.

Investigators found an error on the front label with “altidudine” listed instead of “altitudine” which was used to distinguish bottles put into circulation. Such labels were found on bottles of wine marketed in Germany.

NAS Carabinieri discovered at least 3,000 corks and around 10,000 laminate caps, as well as a bottling and capping machine and wine tanks with a capacity of 1,000 liters.

The group would prepare bottles of low-quality wine and sell them to the Italian and international markets, primarily in Belgium and Germany. The company printing boxes for the bottles of wine was in Italy and labels were ordered from China.

Europol coordinated the operation and worked with the German and the Italian law enforcement authorities by providing operational, analytical support and information.

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