The new unit will work with police and customs officers to combat issues such as identity theft, counterfeiting and wine investment fraud.
According to the WSTA – which represents over 340 firms producing, importing, transporting and selling wines and spirits – the new unit will enable member businesses to legally share information about actual or suspected fraud within the wine and spirit trade and liaise with police, customs and regulatory agencies where necessary.
It will work closely with Operation Sterling, the Metropolitan Police Service's economic prevention and disruption unit.
Welcoming the initiative, acting detective superintendent Nick Downing, who heads Operation Sterling, said police work with industry players was crucial to combating fraud.
Corporate identity theft
Earlier this month a WSTA member firm fell victim to corporate identity theft, at a cost of more than £10,000. Fraudsters were able to use fake email addresses to order wine from one of the firm’s French suppliers, before suspicions arose and the WTSA alerted police and other trade players.
WSTA chief executive Jeremy Beadles said: "It's not just consumers who suffer from fraud, it's also damaging to legitimate businesses within the trade and we want to ensure we are taking every possible step to combat the problem.
"Our new unit provides a real focus to our work in this area and enables responsible businesses to legally share information so that we can help the authorities."
Downing also warned consumers and firms considering investing money in wines or spirits, “to do their research and be sure the companies or individuals they are dealing with are reputable and legitimate”.
“We would further advise that care should be taken with personal details when entering into any financial agreement so as to avoid being conned … or having your identity stolen.”