Scotland business

Chinese court jails fake Scotch whisky seller

whisky in production
Image caption Scotch whisky won greater legal protection in China in 2010

A wholesaler has become the first person in China to be convicted of misusing the term "Scotch whisky", according to the industry's trade body.

Li Cuihong, from western China, was sentenced to four years in prison and fined £50,000 for selling fake goods.

Some were labelled as Scotch whisky when actually they were Chinese spirits containing artificial flavouring.

The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) described the decision as a "major success" for its legal protection work.

Scotch whisky secured greater legal protection in 2010, when Chinese officials agreed to recognise the brand as whisky produced in Scotland.

It meant it could only be sold in China according to UK rules.

There have been previous convictions for misuse of individual company trademarks in China, but this is the first prosecution for using the term Scotch whisky.

'Enormous damage'

SWA said lawyers told the judge that, if the fake spirits were sold, they would "cause enormous damage to the trademark owners and consumers".

They also drew the judge's attention to the fact the defendant had served a prison sentence as a result of a previous conviction for selling illegal spirits.

Lindesay Low, SWA legal adviser responsible for China, said: "China is a growing market for Scotch whisky.

"Unfortunately, its popularity also makes the production and sale of fake Scotch whisky a lucrative pursuit.

"The Chinese authorities are very supportive in the fight against fakes and this case shows they are willing to crack down on those involved."

He added: "This conviction of someone selling fake 'Scotch whisky' should be an example to others involved in this dangerous business, which is damaging for both consumers and the legitimate drinks industry.

"It is further evidence of the successful work being done in co-operation with the Chinese authorities to protect the reputation of Scotch whisky."

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