Austria on Monday started a highly publicised trial of 24 people being accused of stealing millions of euros worth of beers while working at a brewery in Graz, broadcaster ORF reported.
The defendants are also accused of crimes including embezzlement and tax evasion.
The prosecutors claim that the crimes started as early as January 2009, and the criminal organisation was only uncovered after an anonymous tip in 2017. At the time, the anonymous complaint stated that three employees had been stealing beer and non-alcoholic beverages for years.
The brewery Puntigam investigated, planting hidden cameras that uncovered a large scale operation involving initially more than 50 suspects.
According to the accusation, the people involved would say a certain amount of beer was a “faulty product”, allowing them to take them out and sell them. As the scheme and amounts grew more extensive, more workers – and higher on the hierarchy – got involved.
Many of the defendants are said to have profited from an additional monthly income of more than €400 over the years of the crimes.
One of the supervisors is said to have embezzled €50,000 while looking the other way on the selling scheme. All of the accused are Austrian nationals aged between 39 to 64 years old, ORF said.
The defence lawyers say that some will claim partially guilty. Still, many will say they were innocent, stating that the practice of bringing home broken products was a “common” one and that the quantities alleged by the prosecutors were “not true”.
A verdict is expected at the end of May, and the four main defendants could face a prison sentence of up to ten years.