Imprisonment ordered for horsemeat swindlers

Two UK food executives at the heart of the 2013 horsemeat scandal will face years in jail after being found guilty of involvement in the scam last month.

Andronicos Sideras (55) - one of the owners of meat producer Dinos & Sons - was jailed for four years and six months for his part in the racket, while Ulrik Nielsen (58), the Danish owner of FlexiFoods, got a three-and-a-half-year sentence. Another man - Alex Ostler-Beech (44) who worked with Nielsen at FlexiFoods - was sentenced to 18 months, suspended for 12 months.

Sideras, from Southgate, north London, had denied conspiracy to defraud but was convicted of the offence in July after a three-week trial, while Nielsen and Beech admitted the charges brought against them. Both Sideras and Nielsen have also been banned from serving as company directors for 10 years.

The illicit operation - which saw 30 tonnes of cheap horsemeat mixed with beef in meat destined for use in ready means and pies across the UK and Europe - was uncovered when inspectors in Northern Ireland discovered horse ID chips in batches of meat labelled as 100 per cent beef.

The trial heard that Flexifoods would buy beef for about €3 per kg and horsemeat for €2 per kg, with the meat shipped to Dino's & Sons, in Tottenham, north London, where it would be covertly mixed.

In sentencing, Judge Owen Davies QC said: "The fraud you perpetrated was a simple. In most countries horsemeat costs about a third less than beef. The price therefore of a mixture of beef was designed to make a profit when it was sold as beef."

The UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) said in a statement that the sentencing "sends out a clear signal that food crime will not be tolerated." The FSA led the investigation before passing the responsibility to the City of London police in 2013.

"The sentencing today is the result of an immense effort by individuals in a multi-agency investigation and, as well as the police, I’d like to highlight the key role played by local authorities in securing the conviction," said FSA chairman Heather Hancock.

The sentences "should act as a deterrent to those who think they can profit from committing food fraud," she added.

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