Cost of wine fraud may reach £1.3m

Fraud or suspected fraud may have cost UK wine companies as much as £1.3 million since last May, the Wine & Spirit Trade Association has revealed.

Spokesman Gavin Partington noted that the figure is based only on direct reports to the WSTA. “The cost could be far greater,” he said.

Last year the WSTA reported wine companies had been conned out of more than £600,000 of goods through the use of false email addresses and identities between May and October 2011.

Partington said: “It’s been clear for some time that there is increasing concern within the trade about the scale of it. 

“The level of interest in and feedback for our fraud prevention unit suggests there is suspicion of significant amounts of fraud taking place, and it is clear that we in the trade should do everything possible to circulate that information and to pass it on where possible to HM Revenue & Customs and the police so that they can take appropriate action. 

“It is a challenge of course, because it is an area where criminals are dealing in a trade where they believe they can make a profit by acting illegally, so there is a limit to the extent to which the legitimate trade can tackle this. 

“But we do believe that, by passing information internally and forwarding it to police and Customs, we stand a better chance of curbing some of this activity.”

Partington added that the volatile investment market had increased interest in fine wine investments, while rising taxes had created a commercial incentive for criminal gangs to work in this area.

The WSTA has updated its online guide to help people investing in fine wine to protect themselves against fraud, with information for people who are worried about an investment they have made and want to take further action. 

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