Jail for horsemeat fraudsters
Three businessmen who passed off horsemeat as beef in a simple grab for profit have been convicted of fraud, with two being given custodial sentences and one a suspended sentence.
Over a 10-month period in 2012 the trio mixed 30,000 kg of horsemeat into 53,000 kg of beef trimmings, repackaged the meat, attached false labels and sold the mixture as Polish-sourced beef. Their crime was discovered after an environmental health officer examined 12 pallets of meat at a plant in Northern Ireland and found that two of the pallets had horsemeat as a major component. Microchips from two Polish horses and one Irish horse were also recovered from within the meat blocks.
The investigation centred around Denmark-based meat trading company Flexi Foods, owned by Ulrik Nielsen, and Alex Beech, the UK representative of the company. Flexi Foods passed numerous consignments of meat through Andronicos Sideras’s company, Dino’s and Sons, a food supply company and sausage manufacturer.
It seems that during 2012 Nielsen and Beech were buying horsemeat from Ireland and sourcing beef from Poland. This meat was then all delivered to Dino’s and Sons premises, where Sideras would oversee the mixing of these different meat consignments and then apply false paperwork and labels to make it look like all the meat was 100% pure beef. The disguised products would then be sold on as beef without the buyer being aware of any horsemeat having been introduced.
Mixing in cheaper horsemeat to the beef allowed Flexi Foods to increase the profit on each consignment by approximately 40%. The type of meat in question is known as ‘trimming’ and is used in products such as minced meat, sausages, pies and ready meals.
Following a three-week trial at Inner London Crown Court, Sideras has been sentenced to four-and-a-half years for conspiracy to defraud, with a ban from being a company director for 10 years after he was convicted of adding horsemeat into beef destined for the human food chain. Nielsen has been given three-and-a-half years custodial, with a ban from being a director for 10 years, and Beech has been given an 18-month sentence, suspended for 12 months, with a ban from being a director for five years and 120 hours community service.
Detective Constable Stephen Briars, the officer who led the case for the City of London Police’s Fraud Squad, said: “This is a clear case of fraud; the fact that the case revolves around meat and the food chain makes no difference to this crime. A lie is a lie, whatever the circumstances.
“These three men set out to deceive the suppliers, retailers and ultimately the consumer so that they could make more money.
“This case has involved a real team effort with staff from the City of London Police, working closely with our partners from local authorities, the Food Standards Agency and the food industry to gather the evidence necessary to prove this unique and challenging case.”
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