April 25,2017 – The Hague, Netherlands
The just concluded operation that saw more than 50,000 inspections of shops, markets, airports, seaports and industrial warehouses seized over 26 million liters of beverages and 13 million food items throughout the 61 countries involved.OPSON VI is a joint venture by Europol and Interpol that targets the counterfeit food and beverages around the world. In the latest of six operations, 61 Countries participated in this worldwide crackdown, four more than in 2016. Countries that took part in OPSON Vi began their operations in December 2016 and concluded their investigations March 30, 2017. OPSON VI relies on enforcement agencies in each country coordinating within their respective countries along with leadership from Europol and Interpol.
Food and Beverage fraud is a rapidly growing problem around the globe. OPSON VI has a goal of disrupting and apprehending the organizations involved and removing as much of the counterfeit items from the market stream. For the past 6 years OPSON has continued to expand operations, soliciting agencies from more countries each year and expanding the scope of its confiscations.
Some highlights of OPSON VI include:
Italy – In the famous wine region of Tuscany authorities infiltrated an Organized Crime Group, and broke up the production and distribution of fake red wine that was mimicking the famous red wine of the region. Thirteen people were identified in the fraudulent wine production, three were arrested, and ten are still being sought. In this fraud, pure alcohol was added to low quality cheap wines and bottled in replica counterfeit wine bottles with fake labels that mimicked leading name brand wines of famous Tuscany heritage. The operation was centered on a farm in the Tuscan countryside with distribution channels established worldwide. The Police seized the farm along with all fake wine in stock, bottling equipment, cases of fake bottles and cartons of counterfeit labels.
Greece – Near the end of OPSON VI investigators raided warehouses that were housing illicit alcohol from Bulgaria that included vodka and whiskey. This action led to the arrest of 5 people and the seizure of 1300 liters of illicit alcohol.
Russia- In Russia police focused on Leningrad after investigations pointed to fake alcohol production in the area. As part of OPSON VI, the Russian authorities found and dismantled a factory that was producing a variety of fake alcohol including vodka that was representing various brands. This investigation continues after the seizure of the plant, an inventory of counterfeit liquor bottles, fraudulent labels and faked federal tax stamps. Police continue to trace the distribution networks of this enterprise.
Nigeria- In Nigeria the NAFDAC working in conjunction with Federal and local Police seized 51 liters of fake Champagne being sold at a market place in Lago.
As OPSON VI ended, participants were happy with their accomplishments in seizing and dismantling fake food and fake alcohol production and distribution throughout the world, but discouraged that the problem is growing. Planning and operations for the next worldwide crackdown will continue to focus on organized gangs that operate across borders distributing food and alcohol that has caused sickness and death throughout the world.
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