Australian Wine Scam At $10 Million & Rising

on 21/01/11 at 9:57 am

Wine

A bottled wine scam that has devastated a number of Australian wineries has soared past the $10 million mark, with police still searching for the fraudsters and more missing product.

Detectives on Thursday raided a fifth warehouse, at Silverwater in Sydney’s west, and found about 350 to 400 pallets of wine worth an estimated $5 million.

Police found wine valued at an equal amount earlier in the week in four clandestine warehouses across Sydney.

An international company registered to a western Sydney address, called World Wide Trading Company, has received wine but supplies were either not paid for or the cheques bounced, police say.

Acting Superintendent Steve Thomas said the quality of the wine ranged from clean skins to top vintage.

“In one case … one pallet alone was in excess of a quarter million dollars of high-end wine,” Act Supt Thomas told reporters on Friday at the warehouse in Silverwater.

Police have yet to make an arrest and believe more fraudulently obtained wine may be sitting at other, undisclosed locations.

“The actual value of stock potentially that may have been obtained and stock recovered is still to be reconciled,” Act Supt Thomas said.

“It is hard to say at this point in time.”

At least 60 producers and suppliers that sold to World Wide Trading have contacted police, which lead to the warehouse discoveries.

Officers on Monday raided an empty warehouse at Wetherill Park, where police said wine suppliers had first shipped their product before it was moved to premises unknown to the duped suppliers.

Evidence obtained led detectives this week to 200 pallets of wine at a warehouse in Fairfield, 96 pallets at site in Condell Park and 50 pallets at a warehouse in Alexandria.

Pallets of bottled water, Listerine, lollies and garbage bag liners were also found.

Many of the wineries are boutique operations, and the scam has severely hurt their bottom line.

“To some people this has been a fairly devastating effect,” Act Supt Thomas said.

The confiscated wine will be returned to its owners, and equipment such as forklifts has been seized for forensic evidence.

Police have appealed for any other businesses who are concerned about their dealings with World Wide Trading Company to come forward by contacting Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

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