By Jo Pugh •
Published: 18 Sep 2023 • 8:52
The price of olive oil keeps rising Credit: Freepik
Starting this Monday, September 18, a trial is underway at the National Court, involving four individuals accused of orchestrating a scheme to deceive consumers by selling bottles of fake extra virgin olive oil.
The accused allegedly labelled these bottles as extra virgin olive oil, concealing the fact that they actually contained a blend of sunflower oil and olive oil, with approximately 70 per cent sunflower oil and 30 per cent olive oil.
The operation took place between 2017 and 2018. The prosecution alleges multiple crimes, including forgery in a commercial document, a crime against industrial property, and continuous fraud. If convicted, each defendant faces a potential sentence of 13 years in prison.
According to the Prosecutor’s Office, the accused sought to maximise their profits by selling these adulterated bottles at a price lower than the market value and even below their own acquisition cost. Their scheme hinged on exploiting the price difference per litre between the fake “extra virgin olive oil” and the genuine product, reported Europa Press.
In 2017, they introduced these deceptive five litre bottles under the fictitious ‘Bellum Olei’ brand, which never existed in reality. The labels bore the misleading claim of being extra virgin olive oil with the protected geographical indication ‘Jaén oil’, when in fact, they contained a mixture of oils.
To further deceive consumers about the authenticity of their product, the labels displayed false information, including a claim that the oil was produced by the non-existent ‘Virgen de las Angustias Cooperative’ in Úbeda, Jaén.
This label also included fabricated details such as a health registration number, email address, and barcode, all of which were fraudulent.
The plot involved the company Distribuciones Chacón, which distributed 153 bottles of the adulterated mixture to consumers. These bottles found their way into various locations, including the towns of Postes, Monte Alto-La Carlota, and La Guijarrosa-Santaella in Córdoba, Spain.
The accused continued their fraudulent operation with bottles branded as ‘Carrasqueño,’ claiming to be produced by the ‘Virgen del Perpetuo Socorro’ Cooperative in Alcaudete, Jaén. Once again, this claim was untrue, as the oil was, in reality, an adulterated blend.
The Prosecutor’s Office revealed the intricate process employed by the accused to adulterate the olive oil. After acquiring the authentic oil, they transported it to an industrial warehouse in Aguilar de la Frontera, Córdoba.
There, they removed the bottles from their boxes and tampered with the seals. They emptied the olive oil bottles by drilling holes in the caps, leaving them empty and ready to be filled with the mixture of olive and sunflower oil.
After refilling and sealing the jugs, they restored the boxes to their original condition, affixing counterfeit ‘Carrasqueño’ brand seals.
To lend credibility to their fraudulent activities, the accused provided buyers with falsified documentation from the cooperative, including authorisation from the Junta de Andalucía to manufacture, prepare, and transform olive oil, technical product sheets, descriptions of the production process, and analytical reports on the olive oil’s technical characteristics.
As the trial unfolds, it will undoubtedly shed more light on the extent of the deception and its impact on unsuspecting consumers.
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Jo Pugh is a journalist based in the Costa Blanca North. Originally from London, she has been involved in journalism and photography for 20 years. She has lived in Spain for 12 years, and is a dedicated and passionate writer.
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