A WOMAN in China has been jailed for four years and fined £50,000 for selling fake Scotch whisky.
• Chinese woman jailed for four years after selling fake Scotch whisky
• Scotch Whisky Association welcomes first prosecution of its kind
Chinese authorities prosecuted Li Cuihong, a wholesaler selling a range of fake alcoholic drinks, in Urumqi, in the west of the country.
She had been selling unaged Chinese spirits, with artificial flavouring, labelled as Scotch whisky.
The conviction, the first of its kind, has been welcomed in Scotland.
Lindesay Low, the Scotch Whisky Association’s legal adviser responsible for China, said: “China is a growing market for Scotch whisky.
“Unfortunately, its popularity also makes the production and sale of fake Scotch whisky a lucrative pursuit.
“The Chinese authorities are very supportive in the fight against fakes, and this case shows they are willing to crack down on those involved.
“It is the first time the Scotch whisky collective trademark has been used to secure a criminal conviction.”
He added: “This conviction of someone selling fake ‘Scotch whisky’ should be an example to others involved in this dangerous business which is damaging for both consumers and the legitimate drinks industry.
“It is further evidence of the successful work being done in co-operation with the Chinese authorities to protect the reputation of Scotch whisky.”
The association said a serious approach was needed from the Chinese authorities as the sale of fake alcohol is dangerous for consumers and could harm the reputation of Scotch whisky.
It is the first time the Scotch whisky trademark in China has been used to take a criminal case in that market.
Iain McMillan, director of CBI Scotland, said there had been concerns about the treatment of UK exports in China.
“Businesses in the UK – not just Scotland, but UK-wide – have had concerns for a long time about the security of intellectual property and brands in China,” he said.
“So the fact that the Chinese authorities are dealing with cases such as this, where other products are masquerading as Scotch, is a welcome development.”
He added: “China is a large and growing market for Scotch whisky.
“It is very important that the Scotch whisky brand is fully protected and, where the law is contravened, the courts take it very seriously and deal with it.”
Lawyers told the judge that if the fake spirits were sold they would “cause enormous damage to the trademark owners and consumers”.
They also drew the judge’s attention to the fact the defendant had served a prison sentence as a result of a previous conviction for selling illegal spirits.
The defendant’s lawyer did not challenge most of the arguments presented in court, but argued that 1,400 bottles should be disregarded when passing sentence.
Although the bottles bore the words “Scotch whisky”, the defendant’s lawyer claimed they did not resemble any international brands.
However, the judge rejected this argument and made it clear that misuse of the words “Scotch whisky” alone constituted a serious criminal offence.