More than 10,000 bottles of fake Château Haut-Brion have been uncovered by authorities in China’s southern city of Xiamen. Yet, the fraudster is still on the run and punishment was criticized as lenient.

More than 10,000 bottles of fake Château Haut-Brion have been uncovered by authorities in China’s southern city of Xiamen after the Bordeaux first growth’s parent company filed a trademark complaint against a local company.

Xiamen Jimei District Administration for Market Regulation, a local watchdog body, uncovered 1,268 bottles of counterfeit Château Haut-Brion wines in 750ml format, and another massive trove of 9,321 bottles of the same wine in 258 ml bottling, following a trademark infringement complaint lodged by the Pessac-Leognan first growth’s parent company Domaine Clarence Dillon against Xiamen Jin Zun Ye Xuan Trading company (厦门金尊烨轩贸易有限公司).

The raid at Xiamen company’s registered address also led to the discovery of 206 bottles of counterfeit Perrier-Jouët rosé Champagnes.

This could be possibly the largest bust involving a Bordeaux first growth in recent years in China. Yet, as shocking as the scale of the counterfeit fine wine is, questions were also raised about Xiamen Jimei District Administration.

The raid was carried out in January 2019 but was only revealed this month after the administration said the main suspect in the case has gone off grid and is still at large.

According to Chinese media reports, the administration mailed an investigation notice to the suspect in November last year and asked him to come to their office for questioning before October this year. Needless to say, the suspect never showed up.

No financial fines or jail terms were handed out to the company or their legal representatives either, after they were found to have infringed on trademark rights. The administration only ordered the Xiamen Jin Zun Ye Xuan Trading company to immediately stop the infringement and confiscated the counterfeit wines.

However, the administration defended its handling and said that it was unable to mete out a fine because the suspect did not provide “total import volume and unit price” of the three counterfeited wines.

Château Haut-Brion is among the world’s most sought-after wines and one of the five Bordeaux first growths together with Château Lafite Rothschild, Château Mouton Rothschild, Château Margaux and Château Latour.

On Wine Searcher, a bottle of Château Haut-Brion sells about RMB 4,500 a bottle, and on fine wine trading platform Liv-ex, a 2016 vintage was released at €420 per bottle ex-negociant.

“The informant,” it says referring to Domaine Clarence Dillon, “cannot provide a valid sales list to the Xiamen company to estimate their sales revenue. As a result, we believe that the total amount of the suspect’s illegal gains from the above-mentioned three wines and illegal income can’t be calculated.”

The defense was derided by readers online, with many calling the punishment too lenient. Some mocked the logic behind the defense, since companies that are victims of fake wine scheme won’t be able to provide sales list if sales were never made with the perpetrator.

It’s understood that the investigation is still ongoing, and the suspect has not yet been apprehended.

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