Italian financial police were not looking for counterfeit wine when they visited a company in the province of Padua a few months back, but something about a bottle of Moët & Chandon caught their eye: There was no serial number on it.
The bottle was the first clue that led to an alleged counterfeiting ring, one that has been turning local sparkling wine into Champagne. According to a report released yesterday, officers of the Guardia di Finanza raided a building near the town of Selvazzano in December and found 9,200 bottles of fake Moët & Chandon Imperial Brut inside, worth roughly $380,000 at retail. There were also labels for 40,000 more bottles—a potential $1.9 million worth—as well as a professional labeling machine.
Eight people were arrested in the operation; several of them have criminal records, the Guardia said. No word yet on whether charges will be filed. The Guardia says the investigation into the source of the bottles and labels is ongoing. Lab tests showed the faux Moët was cheap wine from the nearby Prosecco-producing area.
"We think these bottles were destined for the markets of Northern Europe, such as Germany," Lt. Col. Luca Lettere of the Guardia di Finanza di Padova told a press conference. "Someone, originally from the area of Valdobbiadene, who knows the area, where to get the wine labels and bottles with which to create the fake Champagne, made these. He also knows the market and how to deceive the consumer."