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01.2008

Massachusetts Beverage Business

archivedOnWineReport

The ITALIAN GANG

Article By: MBB

IT MAY SOUND HARMLESS enough but wine counterfeiting is no laughing matter. Over the last few years the business of faking wine bottles and labels has grown substantially and become a very lucrative industry. The problem is so serious that twenty-five members of the Italian military police recently became qualified as sommeliers in order to combat fraud in the wine industry. Elite officers of the Carabinieri del Nac (anti-fraud squad), recently passed exams given by the Italian Sommeliers Association, based in Rome. The combat-ready sommeliers will use their new-found expertise as part of their existing responsibilities for Italy's Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forestry. They will also conduct special investigations and act as liaisons to the European Commission's Anti-Fraud Office. "The opportunities to perpetrate fraud are limited only by man's imagination," said Colonel Pasquale Muggeo, one of the wine-trained officers. "What we have learned will enable us to offer stronger support to the wine industry." Muggeo said their training had already helped the policemen in uncovering a ring of Brunello and Barbaresco counterfeiters operating in Germany and Denmark. He confirmed that although they might be disguised as civilians in order to carry out their investigations, the teams would be armed, as usual for military police. Muggeo discounted the suggestion that teams of Carabinieri would pose as sommeliers. "The ability to remain lucid is at the core of every undercover activity, without exception," he said. "We do not drink on the job." But now that all of these officers are also sommeliers, it's highly likely that their palates have become much more discerning. No schlock for these officers!

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