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December 23, 2015

Volume 17 Issue 52

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Huge Fake Oil Production Busted in Moscow

Russian police on Friday raided a massive counterfeit motor oil business in Moscow that they said sold fake products in containers designed to look like legitimate popular motor oil brands.

The bust follows similar raids of smaller operations in Novosibirsk and Irkutsk. In this case, the organizers set up “engine oil production” on an industrial scale in the Russian capital, and over an extended period of time, developed it into a multi-billion rubles business.

“Our preliminary estimates show an illegal turnover of around 12 billion rubles annually [U.S. $170 million],” the Russian interior ministry’s department for economic crimes and corruption said in a Dec. 18 news release. “The finished production has been packaged under a slate of popular imported brands and sold all around the country.”

Examples of the counterfeited brands included Shell’s Helix and Rimula, ExxonMobil’s Super, and Total’s Quartz and Elf, as well as SK Lubricants’ Zic. In addition, Ford-, Toyota- and Mazda-branded original equipment manufacturer motor oil canisters were all featured in the interior ministry’s video posted on its website. The video shows different engine oil canisters – which resemble legitimate brand containers in size – stamped with high-quality print labels, neatly packaged in labeled cardboard boxes and put on pallets ready for shipping.

On multiple occasions, the police scoured the places of production, storage and sale of the counterfeited products, and visited the offices and homes of the suspected organizers. “During the raid, we discovered 70 tons of fake motor oils packaged in more than 80,000 canisters and ready for sale. Also, we found a huge amount of plastic packages and labels of various brands, as well as bookkeeping documentation and stamps of more than 30 firms,” the police said. The search and investigation are ongoing.

Total Vostok, the French oil giant’s Russian subsidiary, is proceeding with criminal charges to defend its brand and interests in Russia, the company said. “We are aware of this case, which seems to be a very significant one. We are waiting for more detailed information from the authorities,” Fabien Voisin, the company’s managing director, told Lube Report on Tuesday. “We are very thankful police have identified this source and conducted this raid.”

Shell’s Russia office confirmed to Lube Report that the company is fully collaborating with the authorities and monitors the flow of counterfeited production and unlawful import in the country.

“All these fake oils don’t comply with the technical specifications, and have been produced and sold on an industrial scale in rented warehouses in the territory of Moscow and Solnechnogorsky district of the Moscow oblast,” a ministry spokesman said. He added that the production and packaging took place on three automatic filling machines and that all processes had been executed by a workforce of around 100 immigrants from Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, many of whom have been detained for working illegally.

So far, five of the organizers have been detained. “One of the suspects tried to leave the country for China with a large sum of money, and we succeeded in detaining him at the Sheremetyevo airport,” the spokesman said.