Russian police have uncovered a factory bottling counterfeit Johnnie Walker.

Specialist officers last week raided an industrial unit outside Moscow, discovering cases of fake Black Label and other whisky, rum and cognac brands.

Police said the booze they found was unsafe to drink. Russia’s Interior Ministry published a video of an officer inspecting a bottle of Johnnie Walker. It contained black oily bubbles.

Glasgow Times:

There has been a boom in the production of whisky - both legal and illegal - in Russia since Vladimir Putin’s full invasion of Ukraine hit imports. 

The Scotch Whisky Association, as our sister title The Herald revealed earlier this year, is worried about a swathe of new Russian brands which look designed to be passed off as Scottish.

But, as latest law enforcement action shows, there are also efforts to fake existing brands which are either becoming scarce or expensive on the Russian market.

The underground counterfeit whisky bottling factory was uncovered by officers from an economic security and anti-corruption unit at an industrial estate in Beloomut, near Lukhovitsy, Moscow region.

Tatyana Petrova, who heads the Interior Ministry’s press office for the area, said the factory was bottling but not distilling spirits. 

Two workers were found at the scene - both from an unnamed Central Asian nation - and taken in to custody. A 29-year-old Russian has also been arrested on suspicion of organising the production.

Petrova said: “Officers during an inspection found and seized more than 3000 bottles of alcohol and two tonnes of spirit, as well as accessories and empty bottles with labels from well-known brands.”

Johnnie Walker is owned by Diageo. The spirits giant stopped exporting to Russia last year and has wound down its presence in the country. It used to bottle some of its brands near Moscow.

Diageo operates a Global Supply plant near Braehead Shopping Centre just outside of Glasgow.

However, Russian distributors have started buying Johnnie Walker from other nations through a mechanism called “parallel imports”, as our sister title The Herald reported in February. 

That means there are real bottles of the Scotch brand for sale in Russia, despite the Diageo boycott. Russian criminals have a long track record producing bootleg or counterfeit booze. There have been several high profile tragedies of alcohol poisoning. 

Such bottles are usually sold through late-night kiosks or markets, often to people who are already drunk and can’t distinguish a real product from a fake.

There have been a number of other raids on small or medium-scale underground bottling plants over the last year.