Guilty verdict in horsemeat trial

Three men have been found guilty of fraudulently adding horsemeat to the food chain following a three-week trial. 

Andronicos Sideras of Southgate, London was found guilty of conspiracy to defraud after he was convicted of adding horsemeat into beef destined for the human food chain.

Alex Beech of Sutton-on-Hull, Humberside and Ulrik Nielsen of Gentofte, Denmark had previously pleaded guilty in October 2016.

The verdict comes after the Food Standards Agency (FSA) asked the City of London Police to investigate in 2013. The investigation involved around meat trading company Flexi Foods, with UK offices in Hull, and was owned by Ulrik Nielsen based in Denmark. Alex Beech was the UK representative of the company. Flexi Foods passed numerous consignments of meat through Andronicos Sideras’ company, Dino’s and Sons based in Tottenham, a food supply company and sausage manufacturer.

In July 2014, following a search of Flexi Foods, evidence was uncovered that horsemeat was deliberately introduced into the food chain to increase profits. A later search of Dino’s and Sons also found evidence relating to the case.

A search by police found Andronicos Sideras’ fingerprints on pallet labels attached to a consignment of mixed horse and beef meat detained in Northern Ireland. According to City of London Police, these pallet notes were deliberately altered to ensure that anyone checking the containment thought it was 100% beef, when in fact tests showed it was approximately 30% horse. Other loads had replicated this mixing pattern between July and November 2012.

The overall investigation involved enquiries in Denmark, Ireland, Poland, France, Holland and Italy, and found 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 in Tottenham. Here Sideras would oversee the mixing of these different meat consignments, and would 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.

Sentencing is scheduled for Monday at Inner London Crown Court.

Heather Hancock, chairman of the FSA, said: “This guilty verdict is a welcome outcome. It sends a strong message that we will not tolerate fraudulent activity and I hope today’s conviction is a major deterrent to those who think they can profit from duping consumers.

“Since the horsemeat incident, the FSA, along with the meat industry, has made great efforts to reduce this kind of criminality. The establishment of the FSA’s National Food Crime Unit (NFCU) has given the general public, the food industry and law enforcement partners at home and abroad, for the first time, a dedicated single point of contact to share suspicions about dishonesty within food supply chains. And although fraud evolves and is inherently unpredictable, the combination of these measures should mean that another incident of this nature is less likely.

“I would like to thank City of London Police for working closely with the FSA to ensure food criminals are brought to justice.”

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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