Pistachos del Sol is under investigation for allegedly falsely selling conventionally-grown pistachio nuts as organic, a claim the Spanish firm denies.

A number of Spanish news outlets, including La Tribuna de Ciudad Real, have reported unnamed sources as saying Madrid-based Pistachos del Sol is the subject of a probe. Reports say the investigation is being carried out by The Service for the Protection of Nature and the Environment (Seprona), which is a unit of the Spanish Civil Guard, along with the Gendarmerie of France, one of two French national police forces, and the European law enforcement agency Europol.

The reports claim the investigation is being conducted in Spain and France, with as many as 70 people targeted, amid accusations ranging from food fraud to forgery of documents and money laundering.

The Spanish company said in a statement provided to Just Food the “complaint has been made by a competitor company whose sole objective is to discredit our image”. Pistachos del Sol, which is involved in cultivating, processing and marketing the nuts, added the ongoing investigation relates to sales between 2016 and 2018.

“Pistachos del Sol has always marketed organic pistachio, without ever any claim from existing clients, who have been analysing for more than a decade all the items that have been supplied,” the company said. “The case is in the investigation phase [and] we fully trust the action of justice and it is only a matter of time before it is shown that everything denounced lacks basis.”

Meanwhile, the Spanish Civil Guard claimed in a statement in December it had uncovered the fraud back in 2019, saying it had yielded more than EUR6m (US$7.1m) for the perpetrators.

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A spokesperson for the Civil Guard said it had passed this publication’s request for comment to Seprona, which had not responded at the time of publication for an update on proceedings. As a law enforcement agency, Europol said it would not comment when approached by Just Food.

The so-called Operation Pevera is being assisted by Europol with the engagement of Seprona and has resulted in a probe into 14 people in the provinces of Ciudad Real, Madrid and Málag, the Civil Guard said.

“The Civil Guard, within the framework of the Pevera operation, has detected a company that was engaged in the production, distribution and sale of supposedly organic pistachios under a brand that did not meet these requirements,” the Spanish law enforcement agency said in the December statement.

It continued: “The Civil Guard detected a mixture of organic pistachio with conventional pistachio as a result of laboratory reports in which pesticidal chemical compounds such as glyphosate or chlorate were found, making it incompatible with the organic farming process.

“The main Spanish marketer was dedicated to distributing these pistachios without the requirements established by the sector, and without any type of guarantee in the ecological certification. Thus, the traceability of the product was lost, constituting a true food fraud for the consumer, who bought the product up to 3 and 4 euros per kilo more expensive.”