The current head of the Casella family from Yenda near Griffith, John Casella has been secretly paying a blackmailer, it was revealed this week.

A man has faced court in the New South Wales town of Griffith last Thursday over the alleged blackmail of the family which produces the internationally famous Yellow Tail wine label.

Matteo De Dominicis, aged 67, has been accused of blackmailing Giovanni “John” Casella, for the past two years.

John Casella is the managing director of Casella Wines, which was founded by his parents Filippo and Maria Casella, who immigrated to Australia from Sicily in 1957. The family, which accounts for 19 percent of Australia’s total bottled wine exports, was valued at $665 million in this year’s BRW Rich 200.

The Griffith Local Court was told that John Casella paid a AUD675,000 to De Dominicis, who allegedly started making demands for cash payments in February 28 2008.

According to media reports, Casella went to the police on December 6 after allegedly receiving a fourth demand for $5 million.

According to a statement from New South Wales police, De Dominicis was arrested on December 9 after Casella reported the matter. He was charged with four counts of blackmail.

Yesterday in court he was remanded in custody. The case was adjourned until February 2.

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