Seven Held in Greece for Alleged Olive Oil Fraud

The suspects used a dye to alter the color of the sunflower oil to appear like olive oil.

By Angela Sanan
Nov. 27, 2017 10:16 UTC

Seven peo­ple have been arrested yes­ter­day in the Greek province of Thessaly fol­low­ing allegedly fraud­u­lent sales of adul­ter­ated sun­flower oil, accord­ing to reports. Their prod­ucts were passed off as being extra vir­gin olive oil sold for half the mar­ket price, claim­ing to be directly from the pro­duc­ers.

Operating out of a work­shop near the city of Larissa which is located in the north­ern province of Thessaly, the oil had been sold both locally and abroad.

The four fam­ily mem­bers along with three other rel­a­tives were charged with defraud­ing the state, issu­ing false doc­u­ments and money laun­der­ing. Authorities said they were also involved in crim­i­nal gang activ­i­ties. The pros­e­cu­tor’s office con­firmed that all seven involved in the oper­a­tion will be present in court later this week to undergo fur­ther ques­tion­ing by the mag­is­trate.

The oil was pack­aged into pal­lets, each weigh­ing a ton, before being exported. Five tons of unpack­aged oil had already been seized as well as another 12 tons which were just about to be exported.

The seven made use of a work­shop where a fleet of lux­ury vehi­cles led to the charges of money laun­der­ing, accord­ing to the Washington Post.

In the work­shop, they used a dye to alter the color of the yel­low sun­flower oil to take on a green color to appear like gen­uine olive oil. The adul­ter­ated oil was being sold for under €15 as opposed to aver­age retail prices which range from €26 to €30 for a 5‑liter drum of olive oil.

The Hellenic Food Authority (HFA) is respon­si­ble for set­ting qual­ity stan­dards for the pro­tec­tion of pub­lic health and the pre­ven­tion of fraud­u­lent prac­tices. The author­ity became aware of the sales of these unadul­ter­ated oils back in 2015 when it was first reported by local olive oil pro­duc­ers who dis­cov­ered that their codes were being used on brands which they had nei­ther pro­duced nor sold.

Officials who con­ducted the HFA inves­ti­ga­tion claimed that the dye was ana­lyzed and found to be a prod­uct which is eas­ily avail­able and safe to use. However, it was men­tioned that the ini­tial dye used in the oper­a­tion con­tained car­cino­genic sub­stances.

Prior to the recent arrest, police had taken in as many as 60 peo­ple who were caught up in oper­a­tions which involved sell­ing the fake prod­ucts. At that stage, a ware­house in Thessaloniki was also raided and found to be used for pack­ag­ing of the goods. The work­shop raided on Sunday has since been iden­ti­fied as the main oper­a­tion.


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