Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Pair jailed in horsemeat scam uncovered by Council

Two men involved in a Europe-wide horsemeat scandal, which was uncovered by health officials at Newry Mourne and Down District Council, have been jailed for their part in the conspiracy, while a third was given a suspended sentence.

The scam involved 30 tonnes of horsemeat, most of which entered the food chain.

Andronicos Sideras (55), one of the owners of Tottenham-based meat manufacturer Dinos & Sons, mixed horsemeat with beef before selling it to other firms in a plot that deceived both consumers and food processors.

Ulrik Nielsen (58), the Danish owner of FlexiFoods, bought horsemeat and beef from suppliers across Europe and had it delivered to Dinos, while Nielsen’s “right-hand man”, Alex Beech (44) arranged for the shipments to be transferred and handled the accounting.

Sideras, of Southgate, north London, was found guilty of one count of conspiracy to defraud between January 1 and November 30, 2012, and was jailed at Inner London Crown Court for four years and six months.

Nielsen and Beech, who had already pleaded guilty to the same charge, were sentenced, Nielsen to three years and six months in jail, and Beech to 18 months suspended for 12 months.

The trio’s plot was discovered in September 2012 when Newry and Mourne District Council health inspectors made an unannounced visit to a Freeza Meat store in Newry and found a third of the pallets contained horsemeat.

While later examining around 12 tonnes of meat by hand, police found horse ID chips, roughly the size of a grain of rice.  They belonged to two horses named Trak and Wiktor from the Lodz region of Poland, and a third Irish horse called Carnesella Lady, from rural Galway.

With products labelled as beef and other meats found to contain varying amounts of horse flesh, the contamination crisis rocked UK supermarkets.  And although the face value of the fraud was £177,869, police said the true cost had probably run into millions of pounds.

In a statement, Newry, Mourne and Down District Council said the horsemeat scandal had affected consumer confidence in food.

“While there is no risk to public health, this case has shown that Newry, Mourne and Down District Council Environmental Health Officers have the legal powers and ability to investigate these serious types of food fraud,” a spokesman said.

“This goes towards helping to restore consumer confidence and protecting the consumer from being misled, whilst at the same time providing fairness for all the other businesses within the district and beyond who are operating with responsible and legitimate practices.”