Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Court hears how Newry council health officials uncovered horsemeat scandal

A surprise inspection carried out by Newry council health officials uncovered a Europe-wide conspiracy to pass off 30 tonnes of horsemeat as beef, the London Inner Crown Court heard last week.

Fifty-five year old businessman Andronicos Sideras, one of the owners of meat manufacturer Dinos & Sons, was found guilty by a jury of five men and seven women of being part of a £200k plot in which beef and horsemeat were mixed together before being sold on to other companies as pure beef.

Two other men – Ulrik Nielsen (58), owner of FlexiFoods, and Alex Beech (44), who is described as a “right hand man” in the operation, had already pleaded guilty to their part in the plan, which deceived consumers and food processors throughout Europe. 

On Tuesday last, following a four week trial, Mr Sideras was found guilty of one count of conspiracy to defraud between January 1 and November 30, 2012. 

During the trial it was revealed that Danish-owned company FlexiFoods purchased horsemeat and beef from suppliers across Europe which were then delivered to Dinos & Sons’ premises in Tottenham, north London.

Prosecutor Jonathan Polnay told the trial that fake labels and paperwork were produced 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.”

He said the plot was “motivated by greed” and that it could not have happened without Mr Sideras’ complicity.  Sideras, of Southgate in London, claimed he had only stored the meat for Flexifoods and was not part of the conspiracy.

At the time the stomach-turning plan was carried out, beef could be sold at a wholesale price of €3 per kilo, while horsemeat sold at €2.

The scheme finally unravelled in 2012 when one of the mixed meat loads was delivered to the Freeza Meat store in Newry’s Greenbank Industrial Estate.  The pallets were subjected to a surprise health inspection by Newry and Mourne District Council, which revealed that a third of the pallets contained horsemeat. Horse ID chips, roughly the size of a grain of rice, were also found in the meat.

Commenting on Tuesday’s verdict, 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 men will be sentenced today (Monday 31st July).