Greed can be a slippery slope, especially when that slope is well-lubricated with fake olive oil.
Seven people in the Greek province of Thessaly have been arrested for allegedly trying to pass off sunflower oil as olive oil, the Associated Press reports, and it wasn’t some ramshackle, backwoods operation either. According to the report, a group of seven family members was arrested and charged with “forming a criminal gang, defrauding the state, falsifying documents, and money laundering,” in a complex scheme that extended way beyond the picturesque hills and actual olive trees of Greece.
So, how does a fake olive oil gang go about its business? Apparently, with a lot of dye to turn clear, yellow sunflower oil into pricey, green olive oil, which was then being sold by the ton to German buyers. Authorities reportedly found 12 one-ton palettes ready to be shipped out for half the market price and “a fleet of luxury cars.”
Given the volume involved here and the price difference between sunflower oil and extra-virgin olive oil, it’s not surprising that this family was living like the Tony Montanas of olive oil, but Greek police had apparently been hot on the trails of the fake olive oil gang in recent years, after tracing “a wide network of itinerant peddlers” back to this point of production, believed to be nerve centre of the dyed sunflower oil operation.
Elaborate olive oil scams are nothing new and apps are even being developed to verify the authenticity of olive oils. But the issue here extends beyond fraud and money laundering and has become one of food safety. Greece’s food safety enforcer, the Hellenic Food Authority, had tested an earlier batch of the sunflower olive oil and reportedly said that it “contained substances that can cause cancer,” though they also specified that “a later dye was a safe, widely available product.”
But the alleged criminal masterminds here didn't care about food safety, all they cared about was their green dye and their green 100-euro bills, making a quick buck off of people who like to cook with a little EVOO. Live by the sword, dye by the sword.
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