SPANISH police have busted a major crime ring suspected of exporting fake whiskey.
Over €800,000 worth of counterfeit booze has been seized and 14 people, aged between 37 and 52 years old, have been arrested. Cops launched Operation Fuco in the summer in a bid to bust what they believed to be the largest criminal networks for the production and illegal distribution of whiskey.
The group was widespread across Spain, with key bases in La Rioja, in Jaén and in Campo de Criptana, a town in Ciudad Real.
The fraud had the potential to be worth more than €800,000 ($970,000) and cause damage to the unnamed counterfeited whiskey brand of almost €4 million ($4.8 million).
Officers seized nearly 300,000 whiskey bottles, 171,200 counterfeit tax stamps, 18,400 capsules and more than 27,000 cardboard boxes with the logo of a well-known brand.
Investigators suspect, but have not been able to prove, that some of the 300,000 bottles seized were destined to supply the illicit market for alcoholic beverages, possibly in southern Spain.
The people implicated used a legitimate firm involved in the distribution sector of alcoholic beverages in La Rioja.
The first base of operations, in Ciudad Real, was run by an Asian businessman who imported from Asia fake tax stamps and counterfeit glass bottles, labels and caps from a well-known brand. The second base in La Rioja was in charge of preparing the alcoholic mixture and bottling it. The bottles were sent back to Ciudad Real where they added the labels and seals and got them ready for distribution.
Those detained and seized items have been made available to a court in Calahorra, La Rioja and the prosecutor at the La Rioja Superior Court of Justice.