The bust was about 50 times bigger than Irish custom's average seizure from last year.

By Mike Pomranz
March 22, 2021
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A view of Cork City from the Nano Nagle Bridge
A view of Cork City from the Nano Nagle Bridge.
| Credit: Corey Macri/Getty Images

A group of fraudsters can say their wine was "corked"—though not in the traditional sense. Last week, customs officials in Ireland announced they had confiscated the equivalent of 33,000 bottles (about 6,538 gallons) of counterfeit wine at the Tivoli Container Terminal which, fittingly enough, is located in the Irish city of Cork.

The massive haul of fake wine—valued at about $360,000—was uncovered as part of what the Irish Revenue agency called "routine profiling" which lead to a search of the "unaccompanied container that had originated from the Netherlands." Interestingly, officials also pointed out something that often gets overlooked in the illegal wine trade: Despite the major bust, the government also lost out. Alcohol is heavily taxed, and confiscating the contraband means the Irish national treasury missed out on approximately $192,500, according to Revenue.

"This seizure is part of Revenue's ongoing operations targeting the supply and sale of illicit alcohol products in the shadow economy," the agency stated of the investigation, which is still ongoing. "If businesses, or members of the public, have any information they are asked to contact [us] in confidence."

Though Revenue didn't provide any context into just how big this bust was, if Ireland has had a larger score in the past five years, they haven't publicized it. A search of announcements dating back to 2016 includes only five other mentions of seized wine, and none worth more than about $13,000. According to the Irish Examiner, during all of 2020, Revenue had 1,808 seizures of alcohol for a total of just over 200,000 gallons worth nearly $5 million—meaning last week's seizure was over 50 times larger than last year's average bust.

Meanwhile, Ireland isn't the only part of the British Isles dealing with newsworthy wine fraud: Last month, shoppers in England were told to be on the lookout for bottles of fake Yellow Tail wine.