`Spanish Police Say Palm, Avocado, Sunflower Was Passed Off as Olive Oil

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Spanish Police Say Palm, Avocado, Sunflower Was Passed Off as Olive Oil

Feb. 14, 2012
Julie Butler

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Details of an alleged inter­na­tional olive oil scam — in which palm, avo­cado, sun­flower and other cheaper oils were passed off as olive oil — were released today by Span­ish police.

They said the oils were blended in an indus­trial biodiesel plant and adul­ter­ated in a way to hide mark­ers that would have revealed their true nature. The oils were not toxic, how­ever, and posed no health risk, accord­ing to a state­ment by the Guardia Civil.

As pre­vi­ously reported in Olive Oil Times, 19 peo­ple were arrested last week fol­low­ing the year-long joint probe by the police and Span­ish tax author­i­ties, part of what they call Oper­a­tion Lucerna.

Fif­teen of of those arrested are Span­ish, two are Ecuado­rian, one is Colom­bian and another Ital­ian.

Police said today the alleged fraud involved a com­plex net­work of 30 com­pa­nies and straw men’ from Spain, Italy and Por­tu­gal, and an esti­mated €3 mil­lion ($4 mil­lion) or more IVA (Span­ish VAT) fraud.

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The inves­ti­ga­tion focused on loca­tions in Jaén and Cór­doba, how­ever, and police seized doc­u­ments after search­ing four busi­ness premises in the for­mer.

They believe that false doc­u­ments and hold­ing com­pa­nies were used to sell the adul­ter­ated oil for human con­sump­tion via two main meth­ods: bulk sales to unwit­ting third party busi­nesses and sales of bot­tles labeled as olive oil.

This ille­gal prac­tice causes very seri­ous unfair com­pe­ti­tion in the sec­tor given that, by not pay­ing VAT and using infe­rior or other veg­etable oils, the orga­ni­za­tion was able to price the prod­uct well below the mar­ket rate,” the police state­ment said.

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