Six more arrested in Austrian wine scandal

BONN, West Germany -- Police announced Thursday the arrests of six more suspects in Austria and the investigation of six in Germany in a scandal involving the contamination of wines with a toxic chemical.

The chemical diethylene glycol -- used by some wine producers to boost the sweetness of poor-grade table wines -- has been found in a 10th Rhine wine and in grape juice and an Austrian champagne as well, West German and Austrian officials said.


West German prosecutors investigated six people suspected of involvement in the scandal, and Austrian police announced six more arrests on fraud charges, raising the total arrested in Austria to 28.

Among those implicated is West Germany's biggest wine dealer -- the Ferdinand Pieroth company -- which exports to the United States, Britain, Japan and 17 other countries.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms in Washington Wednesday released a list of 12 brands of Austrian wine that have been found by ATF testing in the United States to contain the ingredient.

West German authorities continued tests of wine for the chemical - normally used as antifreeze -- and experts said they could not rule out the possibility that more tainted German white wine would be found.


Three hundred and fifty Austrian white wines have been found to contain the chemical, which health authorities warned can cause kidney, liver and brain damage and even death. No deaths have been reported.

The checks of German wine began four weeks ago with the discovery that many Austrian wines had been systematically adulterated.

West German health authorities said Pieroth, the leading West German wine distributor and exporter, produced three of the 10 contaminated Rhine wines.

The company, based in the Rhineland city of Bingen, had sales of 641.5 million marks ($233 million) in 1984. It handles 2,000 wines and ships to 21 countries with its biggest markets in the United States, Britain, Japan and Australia.

The three contaminated wines were identified as a Gau-Koengernheimer, Vogelsang, a 1983 Bingerbruecker Roemerberg, Kerner Auslese, and a 1983 Bingerbruecker Roemerberg Huxelrebe Auslese.

Prosecutor Werner Hempler of Mainz, a German Rhine wine center, said a Pieroth technician apparently had mixed Austrian wine with Rhine wine without knowing the Austrian wine was contaminated. He said the employee was being investigated on suspicion of violating pure wine laws.

Pieroth said the contaminated wines had been destined for internal company use and had not been offered for sale.


Latest Headlines