Jail for horsemeat scam duo exposed by Newry council team
Two men have been jailed for their roles in a Europe-wide conspiracy to pass off horsemeat as beef that was uncovered after a Newry council health official's surprise inspection.
Most of the 30 tonnes of horsemeat entered the food chain.
Andronicos Sideras (55), one of the owners of meat manufacturer Dinos & Sons, mixed horsemeat with beef before the mixture was sold to other firms in a plot that deceived consumers and food processors.
Ulrik Nielsen (58), the Danish owner of FlexiFoods, bought horsemeat and beef from suppliers across Europe and had it delivered to Dinos in Tottenham, north London.
Nielsen's "right-hand man", Alex Beech (44) arranged for the shipments to be transferred and handled the accounting.
The majority of the meat, including some from farm horses not sold for slaughter, made it into the food chain and, while the face value of the fraud was £177,869, police said the true cost had probably run into millions of pounds.
Sideras, of Southgate, north London, was found guilty of one count of conspiracy to defraud between January 1 and November 30, 2012, and was jailed at Inner London Crown Court for four years and six months.
Nielsen and Beech, who had already pleaded guilty to the same charge, were sentenced, Nielsen to three years and six months in jail, and Beech to 18 months suspended for 12 months.
The trio's plot was discovered in September 2012 when Newry and Mourne District Council health inspectors made an unannounced visit to a Freeza Meat store in Newry and found a third of the pallets contained horsemeat.
Of that consignment, prosecutor Jonathan Polnay said: "In fact this was a mess up. Sideras got it wrong."
At the time, beef could be sold at a wholesale price of €3 per kg, while horsemeat was cheaper at €2 per kg.
Police would later sift through 12 tonnes of meat by hand and horse ID chips, roughly the size of a grain of rice, were found.
They belonged to two horses named Trak and Wiktor from the Lodz region of Poland, and a third Irish horse called Carnesella Lady, from rural Co Galway.
UK supermarkets were rocked by the horsemeat contamination crisis in 2013, with products labelled as beef and other meats found to contain varying amounts of horse flesh.
In a statement, Newry, Mourne and Down District Council said the horsemeat scandal had affected consumer confidence in food.
"While there is no risk to public health, this case has shown that Newry, Mourne and Down District Council Environmental Health Officers have the legal powers and ability to investigate these serious types of food fraud," a spokesman for the council said.
"This goes towards helping to restore consumer confidence and protecting the consumer from being misled, whilst at the same time providing fairness for all the other businesses within the district and beyond who are operating with responsible and legitimate practices," he added.