The Italian police have dismantled a gang of alleged counterfeiters of organic food. Seven suspects were arrested in several cities, five owners of a dozen companies: Caterina Albiero, 47, CEO of Bioagri sas and "La Spiga srl"; Andrea Grassi, broker and CEO of società agricola Fattoria della Speranza; Angela Nazaria Siena, 39, CEO of Bioecoitalia srl, Terrasana sas, Centro cereali srl, Agridea SA (Switzerland), Life Group Holding sa (Switzerland), Agripoint società agricola srl; Luigi Marinucci, 63, CEO of Sunny Land Spa and of Società Agricola Marinucci; Davide Scapini, 43, sales manager of Sunny Land and of Terre del sole. Two former employees of a control body were also arrested.
In addition, 2,500 tons of fake products were seized. The criminal group is said to have sold more than 700,000 tons of fake organic products - broad beans, field beans, soy beans, corn for animal feed and lower amounts of wheat - for years, worth a total of around 220 million euros, in several European countries. The amount might be smaller, however, since the companies under investigation have sold the same products various times to each other to make them less traceable. Most of the products were imported from Bulgaria and Romania.
The raw materials of the food were purchased via front companies in Romania and Italy, according to a report in the German newspaper Welt. The products were then declared as “organic” by using forged documents and so sold at higher prices.
, the Italian association of organic processors and wholesalers
confirms: “It's all true, unfortunately”. The fraud dates back to a period between 2007 and 2009; the inspection body has fired and reported to authorities its two unfaithful workers as soon as its internal audits showed their behaviour; the five "entrepreneurs" and the two inspectors are now in prison; and for over a year, all certification bodies have worked closely with the Guardia di Finanza
(Revenue Guard Corps), providing support for documentation and data that has allowed to deepen and broaden the investigation.
The Italian organic industry has been calling the Ministry of Agriculture for a long time to launch a database in which all transactions of organic products
are promptly recorded, thus avoiding possible fraud even when having complex architectures. Last month FederBio
, the Italian federation of the organic sector, decided that if the ministry does not provide for it, it will start its own database combining those of all control bodies and therewith allowing immediate cross-checks.
The organic sector has been informed about the investigation for two years, and actively co-operated with the investigators. FederBio confirms its full support for the work of the Guardia di Finanza and the Court of Verona and in the case other additional responsibilities were to emerge calls for the immediate intervention of the Ministry of Agriculture, which authorizes and supervises control bodies. FederBio confirms its intention to bring civil proceedings against those who acted in a dishonest manner and thus contributed to cause damage to the industry.