June 1, 2019 – Sydney, Australia

An investigation was begun by two reporters in Australia, Riley Stuart and Greg Miskelly into the suspicious alcoholic beverage offerings of a major liquor company distributor. Among the suspicious liquors produced and distributed by companies owned by Rex D’Aquino, trading under the names of Fernbrew Pty Ltd and D’Aquino Bros Pty Ltd, was Blue Cactus Tequila.

During the investigation into the origins of Blue Cactus Tequila, the reporters found that it was being produced at Fernbrew Pty Ltd, and not imported from Mexico as stated on the label. Tequila is a trademarked beverage protected by international origin of origination treaties. It can only be produced in a specific region of Mexico and must be certified by the Consejo Regulador del Tequila (CRT) which overseas its authenticity.

Reporters Riley Stuart and Greg Miskelly found several problems with Blue Cactus Tequila. It was not registered with the CRT, its barcode belonged to a Canadian swimwear company, and according to workers at the plant it was bottled in Australia. Tequila under two other brand names were also sold by Fernbrew Pty Ltd and D’Aquino Bros Pty Ltd, both of which proved to be fake tequila.

Another popular brand sold by D’Aquino Bros Pty Ltd and Fernbrew Pty Ltd was The Black Scot which purported to be imported Scotch. The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) was quick to act against its producers as The Black Scot was not imported from Scotland. The SWA was very familiar with Rex D’Aquino, Fernbrew Pty Ltd and D’Aquino Bros Pty Ltd as they had filed infringement cases against them for other Scotch that they were peddling in 2006, 2009, as well as 2012.

Unauthentic Liquor
The liquor brands in question. Photo ABC News: Bellinda Kontominas

Following up on the investigations which were begun by Mr. Stuart and Mr. Miskelly, the Australian Tax Office (ATO) opened an investigation into the business practices of Rex D’Aquino. By February 2019 after an examination of records had begun, the ATO sent letters to Fernbrew’s clients stating that the company owed more than $87 Million in taxes. Details separating taxes owed on “legitimate” alcohol sales as opposed to taxes skirted on the sale of fake alcohol are not yet available as the complex records of the intertwined companies are still being untangled.

Fernbrew Pty Ltd placed itself in voluntary administration on January 30, 2019, yet 5 days later it completed a buyout of Hunter Wine Services (HWS). HWS was another venture which was run by Rex D’Aquino in partnership with a friend. It was a major wine exporter to Russia as well as being an ethanol producer. Investigators have not yet mentioned if the ethanol produced by HWS was sold to Fernbrew Pty Ltd to become part of the fake tequila, fake scotch and other alcoholic beverages that they produced, bottled, distributed and sold throughout Australia.

KordaMentha, a firm that specializes in corporate receivership as well as forensic accounting, are the administrators of Fernbrew Pty Ltd. In a report to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), KordaMentha recommended that the company be liquidated. The report was acted upon and the liquidation has commenced.

Leading to the liquidation announcement it was revealed by reporters Riley Stuart and Greg Miskelly, that ATO now estimates the tax liabilities of Rex D’Aquino to be “substantially” more than the current assessment of $87.11 million.

Reporters from #ABCNews in #Australia uncovered a 'Legit' Alcohol Producer that was actually making #FakeAlcohol Click to Tweet

The determined investigation by the two reporters from ABC along with the swift action of the ATO, ASIC and KordaMentha will sort out the assets and liabilities of this alcohol empire formed by Rex D’Aquino. What these investigations fail to address is the contents of the bottles of alcohol that were distributed to Australians for years by Rex D’Aquino, trading under the names of Fernbrew Pty Ltd, D’Aquino Bros Pty Ltd, and Hunter Wine Services.

The question of contents is not limited to the three fake tequilas as well as the numerous fake Scotch Whiskeys that were sold over the years, it also calls into question what was in every liquor bottle that was sold by Rex D’Aquino.

Now that the investigation has uncovered the relationship with HWS and its ethanol production the question arises, were any alcoholic beverages sold by Fernbrew Pty Ltd, D’Aquino Bros Pty Ltd legitimate distilled spirits. Was everything sold by this liquor empire run by Rex D’Aquino just ethanol mixed with flavorings, colorings and spices, then bottled, labeled and sold? Was there any legitimate distillation occurring at Fernbrew Pty Ltd, D’Aquino Bros Pty Ltd or was everything sold by them in fact fake alcohol. These are important questions that need to be answered as the financial web of this enterprise is untangled.

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