Australian wine dominated by drug money

Photo of Casella brothers in their vineyard from
TTN: Yes this is sort of old news in that Marcello Casella was busted last year – but just as a recap, Casella Wines, owners of major export brand Yellow Tail, is run out of Griffith – and it’s recently been proven that Marcello Casella (centre) is part of a large crime syndicate that produces, distributes and sells meth and cannabis around Australia – if not the world.
Casella Wines absorbed the beloved Australian brand Peter Lehmann Wines in December 2014.

Man behind Yellow Tail wines charged over his alleged involvement in a major drug syndicate

From Fairfax, 13th November 2014

One of the three brothers who transformed Yellow Tail wines into one of the great Australian export success stories has been charged over his alleged involvement in a major drug syndicate operating out of Griffith.

Marcello Casella, the youngest brother in Australia’s largest family-owned winery, Casella Wines, is alleged to be part of the criminal syndicate that produced, distributed and sold commercial quantities of cannabis and methylamphetamine throughout southern NSW.

The 54-year-old appeared in Griffith Local Court on Wednesday after he was charged in September with one count of cultivating a large commercial quantity of a prohibited plant and one count of participating in a criminal group.

Police first raided a property linked to Mr Casella just outside Griffith, a town long synonymous with marijuana cultivation, in February. He was charged with offences relating to the improper storage of two pallets filled with shotgun cartridges and 60kg of gunpowder on the Yenda property.

Two weeks later, on February 27, he ceased being a director of Casella Wines, leaving his two older brothers, Joe and John, as the joint directors of the business which exports some 12 million cases of Yellow Tail wine to more than 50 countries annually.

Mr Casella, a state champion clay target shooter who also owns one of only two ammunition factories in Australia, was charged with the more serious offences by the NSW Drug squad on September 22.

Another Griffith local, Pasquale Sergi, 49, was charged on the same date and is alleged to have also been part of the syndicate.

The pair are among 14 arrests by Strike Force Oceanic during its raids on more than a dozen homes and properties including at Sans Souci and Miranda both in Sydney’s south as well as at  Batemans Bay and Queanbeyan. During the raids police allege they uncovered close to $15 million worth of drugs.

He and this two brothers transformed Casella Wines, started by their father Filippo Casella in 1969, from a tin shed on a 39 hectare block into one of Australia’s major wine exporters, with Yellow Tail taking the US by storm with an estimated annual turnover of $100 million at its peak.

It has also taken over Griffith, the local show is now known as the Casella Family Brands Griffith Show and they sponsor local sporting teams.

Following their fame, the family were the victims of a widely publicised extortion attempt in 2009.

Matteo de Dominicis has pleaded guilty to demanding $5 million from the family.

The court has been told he claimed he was owed the money for having supplied the late patriarch Filippo Casella with the seeds to establish a multimillion-dollar marijuana crop in the late 1980s. De Dominicis also claims Filippo Casella was involved in the 1986 murder of his brother-in-law Nunzio Greco, who was described as a money launderer for the Mob. The Casella family angrily denied the claims.

Marcello Casella will appear in court again in January, 2015.

Casella puts a cork in profit speculation

From Fairfax, 1st December 2015

Casella Wines has refused to provide profit or revenue forecasts for the merged entity if its $57 million takeover of Peter Lehmann Wines is successful because of extreme volatility in the sector, but says it will strip out some head office jobs from the Barossa Valley group.

Casella, the maker of Australia’s biggest-selling wine, Yellow Tail, has told shareholders in Peter Lehmann Wines in a bidder’s statement for its proposed $1.50-per-share buyout the inclusion of financial forecasts “would be unduly speculative and potentially misleading for shareholders”.

This is because of large variations in the main inputs such as grape harvests, international competition, exchange rates and changing customer preferences, which Casella says make it “extremely difficult to accurately forecast”.

“Casella intends to amalgamate the corporate head office and administrative functions of Casella and PLW, such as finance and accounting, company secretarial, risk management, as well as those functions involved in setting overall planning and control of the operations”.
Casella intends to pay for the $57 million takeover of Peter Lehmann Wines from cash reserves and existing banking facilities held with the National Australia Bank.
Casella Wines managing director John Casella says in a letter to shareholders that his company holds Peter Lehmann Wines in the highest esteem.
He says the Casella board believes the $1.50-per-share offer provides the Barossa company with the best opportunity to continue the legacy of  late founder Peter Lehmann and ensure “the values of one’s word being one’s bond” is not lost in an industry that is becoming increasingly competitive.
Peter Lehmann Wines directors outline in a targets statement that trading conditions have been very difficult in the Australian wine industry and that the company doesn’t expect to pay a dividend to shareholders in 2014-15. The board recommends the offer. Swiss-based Hess Group, which owns 86 per cent of the company, and Margaret Lehmann, who controls the estate of the late Peter Lehmann, and director Roger Wilson, intend to accept. They control a combined 99 per cent of the shares. There are about 450 grapegrowers and other shareholders in the company.

The proposed takeover of Peter Lehmann Wines was announced on November 13, a day after a court appearance in Griffith District Court by Marcello Casella, the youngest of the three brothers who built up YellowTail. Marcello Casella has been charged over his alleged involvement in a drug syndicate operating out of Griffith.

Casella Wines will pay $57 million, just over a third of the $149 million Hess paid in 2003 for Peter Lehmann Wines when wine companies were fetching lofty multiples.

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