A Greek prosecutor on Sunday charged seven people for fraudulently selling large quantities of adulterated sunflower oil as olive oil in Greece and abroad. Police investigation found that in the last two months alone, 100,000 liters of bogus olive oil were exported to Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands.
The seven, a family of four and three of their relatives, were arrested by police and they are also charged with forming a criminal gang, defrauding the state, falsifying documents and money laundering. They will face an examining magistrate later in the week, the prosecutor’s office said.
The seven were arrested near the city of Larissa, in the Greek province of Thessaly, about 150 kilometres south of the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki, by the financial crimes squad of northern Greek police.
They were found operating a workshop where they added a dye to turn the yellow sunflower seed oil into a green hue resembling olive oil.
The adulterated oil was sold in five-litre cans, off-market, to Greek consumers and exported, in one-ton pallets, mainly to Germany.
Police found on the premises five tons of adulterated oil ready for packaging and 12 pallets ready for export. They also found a fleet of luxury cars, hence the charge of money laundering.
The product was peddled as “extra-virgin olive oil, straight from the producer.” Its domestic price was 12-15 euros (US$14.30-$17.90) per five-litre can, compared to the retail price of 26-30 euros (US$31-$35.80) for the real thing.
Police first became aware of the widespread sale of adulterated oil about two years ago, when legitimate olive oil producers informed the Hellenic Food Authority, the state agency that sets quality standards for foods, that their unique producer codes were turning up on products not sold by them.
Police had become aware of the existence of a wide network of itinerant peddlers that sold the product off-market and arrested about 60 of them, who, police said, knew what sort of product they were selling. They had also raided a packaging warehouse in Thessaloniki, but it was only recently that they detected what they believe to be the main operation, the one they raided Sunday.
Police say the adulterated oil was exported, to EU countries, using invoices that were later destroyed.
Food Authority officials said that they had tested the dye and found that an earlier version used contained substances that can cause cancer. They added that a later dye was a safe, widely available product. [associated press]
The profit bringing business was in operation since 2015, writes local larissanet.gr. The illegal business was selling the bogus olive oil under the six brand names: Karpos», «Λιοτριβειό», «Paros», «Kriti», «Ελαιώνας/ Eleonas», «CRETA drops» και «Elias drops».
Police investigation found that form September to November 24, 2017, a total of 100,000 liters of artificially colored sunflower oil were exported to Germany and from there to cities in Belgium and the Netherlands. the product was sold as “extra virgin oil and brought a profit of 200,000 euros.
PS on this occasion I checked the olive oil I have been buying for years to find out that 1. it has no region of origin 2. according to small print “it is olive oil consisting of refined olive oils and olive oils direct from olives.” Do you get a clue? I don’t. It is a well-known brand is Greece and costs €7.90 per liter on supermarket shelf. Before the price increase last March it was sold for 4.90-5.10 euros. So I’ve been using an “unknown” and “undefined”‘ “virgin” oil olive that it is not even sold in a perfume bottle to justify the high price.