Fighting fakes with INTERPOL

24 Oct 2014

At the beginning of October, along with my fellow SWA legal adviser Alan Park, I had the privilege of visiting INTERPOL's headquarters on the banks of the Rhone in Lyon to deliver a training session to police and customs officials from across Europe and Africa.

INTERPOL, which celebrates its centenary this year, is an international organisation with 190 member countries which encourages police forces around the world to work together. Food fraud, particularly the counterfeiting of alcoholic beverages, is seen as an easy source of revenue by organised crime. To combat this, INTERPOL, in partnership with its European Union sister organisation EUROPOL, launched the OPSON project to focus attention on this growing problem.

The SWA is a private partner in OPSON and the training session was part of our ongoing efforts to support and educate the enforcement authorities on how to identify fake "Scotch Whisky". We gave a range of presentations explaining the nature of our work, looking at a number of case studies where we had taken successful action against counterfeiters, and giving some pointers on how to identify illegal products. As well as renewing our contacts with representatives from a number of EU member states it was extremely helpful to get some introductions to police from across Africa, where we anticipate that the number of fakes will grow in the coming years as interest in Scotch Whisky develops. We were also invited to provide some bottles of fake "Scotch" which will be displayed in INTERPOL's reception area alongside a range of other counterfeit goods.

A pleasing footnote was that the Corpo Forestale, the Italian police service that deals with food crime, announced that on the day before the training session it had raided a company that had been distributing so called Indian "Whisky" which breached EU law. As a result three people have been arrested and several thousand infringing bottles seized. The raid came about as a direct result of information given to the Corpo Forestale by the SWA through the OPSON programme and it is great to see that our participation has delivered its first concrete result.

Lindesay Low, SWA legal adviser