`Two Plead Guilty in Olive Oil Fraud Scheme, Sentenced to Two Years in Jail

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Two Plead Guilty in Olive Oil Fraud Scheme, Sentenced to Two Years in Jail

Dec. 17, 2011
Julie Butler

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Two Andalu­sian busi­ness­men have been sen­tenced to two years in jail for their part in the dis­tri­b­u­tion of hun­dreds of thou­sands of liters of fraud­u­lent olive oil in Spain in 2005 and 2006.

Passed off as extra vir­gin olive oil, pros­e­cu­tors say the oil was actu­ally a mix­ture of 70 – 80 per­cent sun­flower oil and just 20 – 30 per­cent olive oil. Dur­ing a hear­ing in the Cór­doba provin­cial court in Sep­tem­ber they sought nine years jail and fines of 8,760 euros ($11,560) for each of the accused.

Accord­ing to El Día de Cór­doba, on Thurs­day the pair, iden­ti­fied only by their ini­tials — JMAM and JJCJ — and both from Cór­doba province, admit­ted their role in the fraud and accepted a two-year sen­tence. A third man, FAM, was acquit­ted.

The three were among more than ten peo­ple arrested as part of Oper­a­tion Cho­les­terol.’ A national inves­ti­ga­tion in Spain in 2006, it fol­lowed com­plaints of sus­pected olive oil adul­ter­ation which were sub­stan­ti­ated in test­ing by regional author­i­ties.

In its ini­tial indict­ment, the pros­e­cu­tion said the men had used their cook­ing oil pack­ag­ing and dis­tri­b­u­tion com­pa­nies to mix the olive and sun­flower oil. Some E141 – a food addi­tive not approved for use in cook­ing oils – was then added to make the oil’s color akin to EVOO.

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The oil was later labeled as EVOO in 5‑liter metal and plas­tic con­tain­ers and sold in Andalu­sia, Cat­alo­nia and in other parts of the Mediter­ranean coast. It was dis­trib­uted by two meth­ods: mainly as gifts to peo­ple on orga­nized bus tours but also in sales to small estab­lish­ments and wine cel­lars. Police also closed an online dis­tri­b­u­tion net­work for some of the oil.

JMAM was said to be in charge of sales of the fraud­u­lent oil to whole­salers in the food and hos­pi­tal­ity sec­tor.



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