Operation “Bad Tuscan:” Counterfeit Luxury Wine Ring Busted By Eagle-Eyed Caribinieri In Year-Long Investigation

The renowned caribinieri of Italy are admirably sharp sleuths of stolen, or faked, fine Italian products, be they Gucci knockoffs, Renaissance oils, antiquities, or, in fact, the very finest drink. So it was with a modicum of quiet celebration that a two eagle-eyed officers of the financial police stumbled across a case of recent, suspect Bolgheri Sassicaia — a so-called “Super Tuscan” wine from the renowned Tenuta San Guido winery that retails for some $400 per bottle. According to the Florentine prosecutors who have announced the case, the officers literally found a case lying in the street, in Empoli, Tuscany. Two mobile numbers the officers found on a note inside the case led to the investigation.

The ring had an extensive, professional scale of reach: Customers in Russia, Hong Kong and China had ordered — formerly — believable cases of the stuff. The nominal wine product inside the bottles masquerading as the real thing was vinified in Sicily, a terroir about as far away from Tuscany as one can get and still produce something that passes for Italian wine and a locus of some of the world’s oldest and most practiced crime families. The ring had the cases and labels manufactured in Bulgaria, again, a locus of eastern European crime families with superb technological abilities and tentacles of influence reaching into Western Europe, and the bottles came from Turkey.

Luckily for Italy’s Guardia di Finanza and for the Tenuta San Guido winery, the investigators were, according to the Florentine prosecutors who will be prosecuting the two arrested suspects, able to prevent the entire run of counterfeits from coming to the market.

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