Newry council inspection led to horsemeat prosecutions
A Europe-wide conspiracy to pass off 30 tonnes of horsemeat as beef - much of which went on to enter the food chain - was uncovered by a Newry council health official's surprise inspection.
Yesterday, a businessman was found guilty of being part of a near-£200,000 plot in which beef and horsemeat was mixed together before it was sold on to other firms in a plot which deceived consumers and food processors.
Andronicos Sideras (55), one of the owners of meat manufacturer Dinos & Sons, was found guilty by a jury of five men and seven women at Inner London Crown Court following a four-week trial.
Ulrik Nielsen (58), owner of FlexiFoods, and "right-hand man" Alex Beech (44) had already pleaded guilty to their part in the plot.
The court heard how Danish-owned company FlexiFoods would buy horsemeat and beef from suppliers across Europe and have it delivered to Dinos in Tottenham, north London.
Labels and paperwork were fabricated to make the mixed meat appear like pure beef, before it was sold on to food manufacturers making products for a "vast range of well-known companies", prosecutor Jonathan Polnay told the trial.
Mr Polnay told the court during the trial that the plot was "motivated by greed" and said it could not have happened without the "connivance" of Sideras.
At the time, beef could be sold at a wholesale price of €3 per kilo, while horsemeat sold at €2.
The plot unravelled in 2012 when one of the loads ended up in a Freeza Meat store in Newry, and a surprise health inspection by Newry and Mourne District Council later revealed a third of the pallets contained horsemeat.
Horse ID chips, roughly the size of a grain of rice, were also found in the meat.
Sideras, of Southgate in London, claimed he was not part of the conspiracy and had only stored the meat for FlexiFoods.
But the jury found him guilty of one count of conspiracy to defraud between January 1 and November 30, 2012, the same charge to which Nielsen and Beech had earlier pleaded guilty.
FSA chair Heather Hancock said: "This guilty verdict is welcome. It sends a strong message that we will not tolerate fraudulent activity and I hope today's conviction is a major deterrent."
All three will be sentenced on Monday.