Following the case of 3,200 gallons of untraceable oil seized in Tuscany last month, another scandal arising from the scarcity of Italian olive oil was uncovered this week.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry announced that the Central Inspectorate for the protection of the quality and fraud prevention of food products discovered the manipulation of invoices for 500,000 liters of olive oil falsely passed off as Italian, for a total trade value of €3 million.
The operation, called “Paper Oil,” led to eleven searches and eight persons under investigation in Apulia, Calabria, Tuscany and Liguria.
The investigators retraced the scam system the criminals used: Companies from Apulia and Calabria forged documentation about the Italian origin of extra virgin olive oil of unknown sources, to be delivered to bottling companies certified as “Made in Italy,” and then packaged and distributed to the marketplace.
The eight suspects are accused of agribusiness fraud and tax evasion.
The Minister of Agriculture, Maurizio Martina, said: “The Ministry has strengthened controls on the oil supply chain because the decline in production this year is exposing the oil sector to the risk of an increase of the frauds cases. The operation ‘Paper Oil’ is a proof of our commitment to safeguard consumers and thousands of honest producers already facing the current crisis.”
“The action of checking traceability has been enhanced so we can trace the products from their entrance to the ports up to their processing and marketing. We need to state very clearly there is no room for people breaking the rules. Our Inspectorate for protection of the quality and fraud prevention works every day very meticulously while confirming the efficiency of our anti-fraud system.”