Meat company faces court over ‘lying’ to customers

A now-defunct meat company is facing trial over allegedly deceiving its customers. 

Leicester Crown Court heard how Dutch Bangla Direct Ltd was supplying meat to restaurants and takeaways, which it claimed to be halal lamb, when it was in fact non-halal turkey.

Mahmudur Rohman, the company’s boss, is now on trial alongside three other men accused of conspiring to defraud customers and falsely representing the meat they were selling between 2013 and 2014.

“It’s alleged these four defendants conspired together to commit fraud in relation to the dishonest supply of turkey meat which they pretended was lamb,” said Kevin Barry, prosecuting on behalf of the local trading standards.

“They were supplying ships, and restaurants in the East Midlands and beyond.”

The supposed activity first became apparent during the horsemeat scandal of 2013, when food tests found that turkey DNA in dishes that were supposed to be lamb was actually turkey.

Rohman is on trial with Mohammed Anwarul Hoque, his son Mohammed Zunaid Hoque and Kamal Rahman.

“The operation was on a grand scale, involving 100 tonnes of turkey,” added Barry.

“The cost of turkey is very much lower (than lamb), and profits generated from deceiving customers were in the hundreds of thousands of pounds. Apart from the main conspiracy, they are accused of further offences linked to the conspiracy to defraud.”

He claimed that documents were forged and there was an attempt to pervert the course of justice – allegedly by Rahman – by getting a witness to lie to the authorities.

Barry said: “There was also the misdescribing and mislabelling of food.

“Rohman placed substantial orders with European suppliers of turkey meat, but sent it out as lamb, sometimes with false labels. He would often use the three co-defendants as salesman and deliverymen.”

According to Barry, Mohammed Anwarul Hoque is Leicester-based and has a history of dealing with the restaurant business. He was the key sales and delivery manager for Dutch Bangla.

“He had considerable face-to-face contact with customers and received thousands of pounds from Dutch Bangla. His son, Mr Hoque Jr, assisted his father in establishing customers and supplying them with meat, and he lent himself to the fraud, knowingly selling turkey as lamb.

The fraudulent activity allegedly resulted in the firm earning at least a quarter of a million pounds in profit.

An alleged 116 tonnes of turkey, predominantly from Germany, were imported between October 2012 and November 2014 at a rate of £1 and £1.50 per kilo. This was subsequently sold on as lamb for between £4.75 and £7 a kilo, resulting in an estimated turnover between £500,000 and £800,000. More than half of this would have been used to profit the company.

“Turkey meat at wholesale level commands much lower prices and, by selling turkey as lamb, the defendants were able to charge around double what it was actually worth – and they were still able to undercut rivals’ prices for lamb, so it looked more attractive to the customer,” said Barry.

“It wasn’t halal-certified and the (European) suppliers to Dutch Bangla didn’t claim it to be halal-certified.”

Forged certificates were seized, which incorrectly said that Dutch Bangla was certified to handle halal meat, which were “plainly being created” to falsely lead customers to believe it was a certified halal business, added Barry.

Aside from the conspiracy allegations, all four men have denied selling food that was different from what the customer requested and selling food that was inaccurately labelled. Rahman has also denied intending to pervert the course of justice.

Rohman and both Hoques have denied five counts of Food Safety Act breaches.

Rohman has also denied forgery, being in possession of an article for use in fraud, selling food with a false description, failing to have in place adequate systems and procedures to provide food traceability to the authorities and failing to let authorities know of the premises where the food production, processing and distribution was taking place. Hoque Sr has denied processing a false halal certificate for the use of fraud.

The trial is ongoing.

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