An entire black market industry has formed around the manufacture of fake liquor in Hainan. (File Photo/Xinhua)
A shadowy fake liquor industry has been uncovered during a police investigation in Hainan province in May, according to the official Global Times.
The investigation in the provincial capital of Haikou found that some hotel waiters have been trained to open branded bottles without damaging them and then collect them after use for sale to fake liquor gangs, while restaurant and bar owners display fake liquor prominently in their establishments.
These gangs then pour cheap wine and chemicals into the bottles carrying brand labels. Forged anti-counterfeiting marks were stamped onto the bottles, which were then packed up in cases and sold.
More than 10,000 bottles of fake Moutai, Wuliangye, Louis VIII and Hennessy XO were found across 11 fake liquor-making sites and 17 suspects were arrested in the biggest case on the island so far this year. At one of the sites in a village in Haikou’s Xiuying district, packing cases and boxes were found in a small yard.
"The process of making fake liquors is both easy and quick," said Zhao Jiang, a police officer with Haikou Public Security Bureau.
The rampant circulation of fake liquor has hit sales of genuine liquor products and also poses a risk to public health.
An entire industry has formed around the manufacture of fake liquor, including making counterfeit trademarks and bottle caps, recycling luxury wine and spirit bottles and selling to hotels and restaurants.
"Low costs and high profits are the main reasons for the repeated cases of fake liquor," said Chen Xiaokun, head of the Haikou police investigating team.
A factory making fake liquor needs only two workers who can fill 200 bottles every day and produce 6,000 bottles a month, Chen said.
It costs less than 200 yuan (US$30.91) to make a bottle of fake Moutai, including materials, the cost of buying empty bottles and rent for the manufacturing site and paying the workers. Yet a bottle of fake Moutai can be sold for more than 700 yuan (US$107).
Hotels have become accustomed to collecting luxury liquor bottles left by customers in order to sell them to purchasers. They teach waiters not to damage bottles or the anti-counterfeiting marks on them when opening them for customers, a waitress surnamed Fu at a Haikou hotel said.
"The more expensive the liquor is, the more the bottles are worth," the waitress said, adding that a bottle with an undamaged anti-counterfeiting mark could be sold for 100 yuan (US$15) whereas the price for damaged bottles drops to 70 to 80 yuan (around US$11).
Those recycling the bottles only work with certain contacts in the hotel rather than strangers, the waitress added. "Everybody knows what these bottles are sold for," a lobby manager in the hotel surnamed Lin said.
To make more money, many restaurants, bars and karaoke venues, the major sites for the consumption of spirits and wine, have become complicit in the sale of fake liquor.
A liquor store boss surnamed Wu, who was among the suspects arrested, said a bottle of fake Wuliangye could be bought from the makers for 300 yuan (US$46) and sold to customers at 780 yuan (US$120). Extra packaging could fetch another 150 yuan (US$23), giving a net profit of up to 630 yuan (US$97).
Forgers making anti-counterfeiting marks also earned good money from their criminal trade.
In most fake liquor cases it’s very hard for customers to judge the authenticity of products, Chen said.

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