The dark side of the wine industry was on full display last week. Europol announced (via a release titled, ‘Bad Harvest,‘) a big human trafficking bust in the vineyards outside of Lyon.
The agency said that at least 167 people were victimized by a Bulgarian-French conglomerate during the current harvest. Three alleged ringleaders from Bulgaria and one from France were arrested by the Specialised Jurisdiction (JIRS) of Lyon in conjunction with a joint task force.
According to Europol, Bulgarian nationals from disadvantaged regions were recruited for agricultural jobs. The workers were promised €60 a day plus housing and transport. Authorities said that the deals were sealed by contracts “written in a foreign language.”
Investigators said that the workers were taken to France where they were contracted out to four wine producers. However, instead of proper lodging, the workers were put into a campsite. Money was deducted from their pay under the labels of lodging, transport, and fees. Europol reported that many workers were left with so little money that they could not afford the trip home.
The ring’s profits were then allegedly filtered through a line money laundering scheme.
As reported by OCCRP, “in Bulgaria, roughly 32,000 people live in slavery out of a population of over 7.1 million, while the estimated number in France is about 129,000 out of 64.5 million, according to the Global Slavery Index, created by the Walk Free Foundation.”