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Wine Spectator: Massive Wine Fraud Sting Nets Prominent Canadian Industry Figures

June 4, 2015

Montréal police arrested 12 individuals—many in the wine industry—last month in what authorities are calling “one of the most (significant) tax-evasion schemes referring to alcohol contraband in Quebec.” Authorities allege that 20 different labels being sold by the First Nations Winery were actually just Italian bulk wine doctored with different flavor adulterants, and now several Canadian winemakers and other prominent industry members are behind bars. Some 23,500 gallons of wine—the equivalent of 9,900 cases—were seized in warehouses and private residences over the course of 32 raids, the culmination of a sting operation dubbed “Project Malbec.”

Police estimate that the scheme moved 150,000 cases illegally between 2010 and 2014 and cheated the province and Canada out of an estimated $11 million in tax revenues (14 million in Canadian dollars).

Among those arrested so far are: Murray Marshall, cofounder and, until 2013, CEO of producer and distributor Diamond Estates Wines & Spirits; Floyd Lahache, owner of First Nations; Luca Gaspari, winemaker at First Nations for the Tenuta Santarelli brand of Italian wines; and Zaché Audette-Hall, a winemaker for Groupe Versay in Montréal. “Other arrests are coming,” said Montréal police sergeant Laurent Gingras. Wine Spectator has the full story.

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