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Chinese-owned Bordeaux vineyards seized in fraud inquiry
Ten Chinese-owned Bordeaux wine châteaux have been seized as part of an investigation into alleged fraud relating to their purchase, police in the region confirmed Friday.
Police have seized the châteaux, which are not big-name Bordeaux producers, during the course of the second quarter of 2018, they said, alleging that they had found evidence of tax fraud and use of irregular documentation.
The initial inquiry, which started four years ago, was into 24 châteaux, all of which had been purchased for 55 million euros by the Haichang group, which has holdings in marine transport, real estate, amusement parks and other sectors.
The investigators say they have found operations between offshore companies and French ones that have no connection with each other, as well as a loan of 30 million euros from the Paris branch of China's ICBC bank using fake deeds.
The French authorities' interest was aroused by reports of a Chinese Court of Audit report that found that public money had been used to acquire French vineyards.
In particular, two companies in the north-eastern port of Dalian had been granted 268 million euros (32 million euros) to acquire foreign technology but used the money to buy 14 châteaux.
Haichang boss Naije Qu is originally from Dalian.
In 2012 the city held a wine festival with the Bordeaux chamber of commerce.