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A Dutch meat trader has been sentenced to 30 months in jail for falsifying documents to pass off horsemeat as beef.

Willy Selten, 45, was arrested in May 2013 as part of the European investigation into horsemeat contamination of beef products.

The “horsemeat scandal” caused ready-made meals to be pulled from supermarket freezers across Europe.

Selten was found guilty in court earlier this month (7 April) of forging invoices, labels and declarations to pass off over 300 tonnes of horsemeat as beef.

The scandal was first exposed in January 2013 in Ireland after which 50,000 tonnes of meat products were urgently recalled across Europe amid fears it contained horsemeat.

Tainted meat was discovered in Austria, Germany, France and Sweden. Horsemeat was also found in burgers produced by UK supermarkets.

The suspect beef was found to have been sold by Selten’s companies in the Netherlands — Wiljo Import en Export BV and Vleesgroothandel Willy Selten.

In April 2013 the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority said 370 companies around Europe and 132 more in the Netherlands were affected by the vast recall, because they bought meat from the two companies.

“Beef cuts and horse cuts were stored in the freezer with the same article number,” Selten told the Dutch Algemeen Nederlands Persbureau press agency at the time of the trial in March..

“I forgot to give them different numbers and it’s wrong what happened. Of course we should have exercised better control.”

Prosecutors had called for a five-year jail sentence for Selten to reflect the damage he had done to the country’s meat industry.

He was earlier declared bankrupt and reportedly faces damages claims of 11m.

During his trial the defendant admitted making mistakes but argued he had not deliberately committed fraud.