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Sicily blackmailers threatened to destroy 230 bottles of fine wine

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Sicily blackmailers threatened to destroy 230 bottles of fine wine
File photo of Italian wine: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP
12:53 CET+01:00
Sicilian police on Wednesday arrested three men for the theft of 230 bottles of valuable wine - and then demanding money in exchange for its safe return.

The trio broke into a restaurant in Taormina, Tiramisù, where they broke the CCTV cameras and burglar alarm, before making their getaway with 230 bottles of fine wine.

The total value of the drinks was €40,000, with each bottle worth an average of €200, but some up to €1,000, according to Il Giornale di Sicilia. The bottles of wine and champagne came from all across Italy and the world and included rare varieties.

What's more, the wines were worth even more in lost revenue to the restaurant, which would have sold them to customers at a mark-up.

The thieves didn't intend on sampling the drinks themselves though: instead, the culprits contacted the restaurant owners demanding they pay up €15,000 for it to be returned. If they didn't receive the ransom money, they warned, the wines would be destroyed.

The incident dates back to May 2016, but Taormina's police force announced on Wednesday that they had identified and charged the perpetrators following a ten-month investigation.

Police named the thieves as Salvatore Santangelo, aged 39, Alfio Petralia, 48, and Antonino Nicosia, 26. Santangelo, thought to be the mastermind of the theft, was taken to the local jail, while his two accomplices were placed under house arrest.

Police did not however reveal the fate of the stolen wine.

Food thefts are not uncommon in Italy, with some of its most famous products popular targets for criminals.

A spike in cheese theft saw robbers make off with an estimated €6 million worth of Italy's prized Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese between 2014 and 2016. The combination of high value - one 40kg wheel is typically worth €500 - and small, rural producers which aren't equipped with anti-theft seasons makes the cheese warehouses an irresistible target. 

And two years ago, Ligurian police foiled an attempted heist of 29kg of Nutella, the popular chocolatey hazelnut spread, which the thieves reportedly planned to sell on the black market. 

READ ALSO: The world's first wine school is opening in Italy

The world's first wine school will soon open in Italy

Photo: Lori Branham/Flickr

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