Four on trial over horsemeat scandal

  • The trial of four people accused of being behind the 2013 European horsemeat scandal has opened in Paris.

     Irish authorities were the first to uncover horsemeat fraudulently passed off as beef during tests of frozen burgers in December 2012.

     A wider investigation found undeclared horsemeat in burgers and ready meals on sale in supermakets across the UK, including Tesco, Iceland, Aldi and Lidl, as well as throughout Europe.

     The investigation traced the source of the meat back to French company Spanghero, which had bought it from a Romanian abattoir through suppliers in the Netherlands and Cyprus.

     Prosecutors in the trial allege Spanghero was aware it was buying cheap horsemeat and that it then changed package labelling to more expensive beef.

     Former Spanghero director Jacques Poujol and ex-plant manager Patrice Monguillon are accused of selling more than 538 tonnes of horsemeat passed off as beef to Tavola, a subsidiary of Comigel — which manufactured ready meals — with the complicity of Dutch meat traders Hendricus Windmeijer and Johannes Fasen. 

    Mr Poujol’s lawyer says his client did not know he was being sold horsemeat, but the defence for Johannes Fasen, who is on trial with fellow trader Hendricus Windmeijer, argues he was openly selling horsemeat. Formal pleas were not clear at time of writing.

    Spanghero also used 200 tonnes of horsemeat itself in its beef merguez sausages.

     Reuters reported that a lawyer for Poujol told them the ex-Spanghero director did not know he was being sold horsemeat — an argument contested by his co-defendant Johannes Fasen, a Dutch food trader and executive at Cyprus-based Draap Trading.

     “My client sold the horse meat to Mr Poujol because he ordered horse meat. He sold the horse meat to Poujol at horse meat price and Spanghero sold it on as beef at 1.50 euros a kilo more. So who profits from this crime,” Fasen’s lawyer is reported as having said.

     The trial is expected to run until mid-February with the four men facing up to 10 years in jail and a fine of €1m (£900,000). 

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