Two men have been sent to prison over a conspiracy to sell 30 tons of
horsemeat as beef – most of which entered the food chain.
Ulrik Nielsen, the Danish owner of FlexiFoods, bought horsemeat and beef from suppliers across Europe and had it delivered to Dino & Sons, a meat manufacturer in north London.
Andronicos Sideras, one of the owners of Dinos & Sons, then mixed the horsemeat and beef together before it was sold to other firms in a plot that deceived consumers and food processors.
Although the face value of the fraud was £177,869, police believe the true cost has probably run into millions of pounds.
At Inner London Crown Court, Sideras was found guilty of one count of conspiracy to defraud and jailed for four-and-a-half years.
Nielsen, who had already pleaded guilty to the same charge, was sentenced to three-and-a-half years behind bars.
Alex Beech, who was described as Nielsen’s “right-hand man” because of his role in arranging for the shipments to be transferred, also pleaded guilty and was given an 18-month sentence suspended for 12 months.
The plot was uncovered in September 2012 when health inspectors from Newry and Mourne District Council made an unannounced visit to a Freeza Meat store in Newry and found a third of the pallets contained horsemeat.
At the time, the wholesale price of beef was €3 per kilogram, while horsemeat was €2.
Judge Owen Davies QC said it was “not confined to this country, not confined to the firms we have heard about, and it’s a big issue for the public to be concerned about”.
He added: “In my judgment, other people were at it as well as you.”
Prosecutor Jonathan Polnay said that “while there is no suggestion the meat was unfit for human consumption, it carried a potentially high public health risk”.
He added: “Had there been, not a criminal problem, but a health problem, it would be impossible to trace it because the records had been falsified.”
Sideras had claimed he was not part of the conspiracy and had only stored the product for FlexiFoods. He was barred from being a director of a company for 10 years as part of his sentence, as was Nielsen.
Beech received a directorship ban of five years and was ordered to carry out 120 hours of unpaid work.