A total of seven suspects were recently arrested by French police for the theft of about 800,000 euros worth of Grand Cru wines, including a Chinese businessman who had resold the stolen wines to Asia. The local police chief said 800 bottles of wine were recovered in the course of the search.
Image courtesy of: Wine Business Watch
The theft took place over a weekend in September 2020 at a merchant"s warehouse in the northern Bordeaux suburb of Bruges and involved about 1,600 bottles of Grand Cru wines, including Latour, Rouge de France and Patrus. A total of seven people were arrested in the case and the value of the wine stolen was approximately €800,000.
Christian Sivy, the judicial representative of the New Aquitaine region, said: "The video and surveillance were important factors in our ability to find the people involved in the theft and the stolen wine, and the police surveillance of these people confirmed our initial suspicions.
On January 26, police operations were carried out simultaneously in Bordeaux and Mérignac, Attig-Prés-Bordeaux, Saint-Loubès and Blankfort. About 50 investigators were mobilized, Christian said. During the arrest, one of the suspects also threatened the police with a long gun. After searching these various locations, we found close to half of the stolen wines, which were mainly Grand Cru wines. Almost half of the stolen wine, i.e. about 800 bottles of wine, was recovered, as well as several thousand euros, two long guns and a small amount of drugs.
The suspects were in their 30s and 40s, had varied backgrounds, and all had committed minor criminal convictions. Of the seven arrested, some may have been connected to the burglaries, while others acted as intermediaries in the sale of the stolen wine money for resale. Also arrested was a Chinese man, who was himself in business in Bordeaux, who purchased and resold the wine with knowledge of its source, and at the time of his arrest had already sold some of the stolen goods on the Asian market.
At the end of 2020, the French police had dismantled a large criminal ring of theft and concealment of Grand Cru wines in a joint operation in the Gironde and Loire, arresting 25 people and involving around 5 million euros of stolen wine.
The seven people arrested were charged with aggravated theft, concealment of aggravated theft, and conspiracy to commit a crime, and three are currently under judicial supervision and four are in prison. French police said the theft of Grand Cru wines has become a common phenomenon in the region, which is an increasing threat to wine merchants and wine collectors, so it is still important to remain vigilant at all times.