Six Sentenced to Jail in 'Operation Arbequino'

Francesco Fusi and five colleagues were sentenced in Italy for commercial fraud and criminal conspiracy to sell olive oils "obtained through illicit mixing."

Feb. 24, 2017
By Ylenia Granitto

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The for­mer owner of the olive oil com­pany Valpesana, Francesco Fusi, was sen­tenced in Italy to four years in prison for com­mer­cial fraud and crim­i­nal con­spir­acy for sell­ing olive oils obtained through illicit mix­ing with raw mate­ri­als of an infe­rior cat­e­gory or other geo­graph­i­cal ori­gins.”

This sen­tence is proof that the Save Italian Olive Oil’ law is defend­ing con­sumers and the qual­ity of Italian cui­sine.- Tom Mueller

Italy’s Financial Police began the oper­a­tion in 2011, when the pros­e­cu­tor of Siena, Aldo Natalini, launched an inves­ti­ga­tion fol­low­ing a review of the com­pa­ny’s finan­cial records. Documents revealed fraud­u­lent prac­tices of blend­ing con­firmed by the court’s ver­dict.

In addi­tion to the stiff sen­tence handed down for Fusi, the com­pa­ny’s sales­per­son, Stefano De Gregorio, was sen­tenced to one year and 10 months; the admin­is­tra­tive direc­tor Paolo Vannoni and an admin­is­tra­tive employee, Lucia Sbaragli, were con­demned to 1 year and 8 months with sus­pended sen­tences; and employ­ees Paolo Alessi Innocenti and Alessandro Volpini received sen­tences of nine and five months, respec­tively.

An offi­cer respon­si­ble for inspec­tion and sanc­tions tasks, Sergio Carbone, was acquit­ted of charges that he vio­lated pro­fes­sional secrecy.

The court imposed an admin­is­tra­tive fine of €100,000 on the Monteriggioni (Siena) com­pany and the seizure of over €300,000 in assets. The defen­dants were ordered to com­pen­sate the plain­tiffs, the National Consortium of Olive Growers (CNO).

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Acting as an inter­me­di­ary between pro­duc­ers and dis­trib­u­tors, Valpesana was found to have declared as 100-per­cent Italian extra vir­gin olive oil a deodor­ized mix­ture of vir­gin and lam­pante olive oils from Greece, Tunisia and Spain. The oper­a­tion was named Arbequino’ for the Spanish vari­ety found in the ille­gal mix­ture.

The grounds for judg­ment must be filed within 90 days; mean­while, lawyers for the defen­dants have announced that they will appeal the court’s deci­sion.

A stiff sen­tence like this is part of a trend in Italy towards actu­ally bring­ing oil crim­i­nals to court and giv­ing them pun­ish­ments with real bite,” inves­tiga­tive author Tom Mueller told Olive Oil Times about the judg­ment.

It’s great to see Italian leg­is­la­tors, pros­e­cu­tors and inves­ti­ga­tors enforc­ing qual­ity stan­dards in olive oil, and other foods. This sen­tence is proof that the Save Italian Olive Oil’ law of Colomba Mongiello, and the deter­mi­na­tion of pros­e­cu­tor Aldo Natalini and his inves­ti­ga­tors, is defend­ing con­sumers and the qual­ity of Italian cui­sine,” Mueller said.

Why can’t food fraud be taken seri­ously, and pun­ished ade­quately, in the United States?” he added.



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