Vineyard workers harvest grapes in the northeastern French wine region of Marne, Oct. 3. (Photo/Xinhua)
Purchases of French vineyards by wealthy Chinese investors have the authorities on high alert for possible money laundering activity, reports the Nanjing-based Jinling Evening News.
In recent years French wine regions have been bombarded by Chinese investors, who have shown a willingness to throw large sums of cash at local owners in exchange for their vineyards and chateaus. According to one report, Chinese owners are close to overtaking Belgians as the largest group of foreign vineyard owners in the famous wine-producing region of Bordeaux.
While critics believe the vineyards should remain in local hands, or at least in European hands, others welcome the investment from Asia on the basis that it could help in the reconstruction of infrastructure.
French authorities have been put on alert however after a report issued this year emphasized caution in investigating sales of vineyards to Chinese buyers, who have been suspected of using the purchases for money laundering purposes. Some Chinese owners in the region say many of the original buyers have already sold the vineyards on — to other Chinese buyers — after failing to turn a profit.
The news comes just days after a Hong Kong-based Chinese billionaire and his 12-year-old son died in a helicopter crash in Bordeaux while taking a flight to inspect their newly purchased chateau and vineyard.