A British Cypriot man was handed a 4.5-year jail term by a London court on Monday over a conspiracy to sell horsemeat as beef in 2012.
Andronicos Sideras, 55, was found guilty of conspiring with two others, Alex Beech and Ulrik Nielsen, to defraud for a sum total £177.869 between January 1 and November 30, 2012, by introducing 30 tonnes of horsemeat into the food chain.
The court ruled that Sideras, co-owner of Dinos & Sons meat manufacturers, had stricken up a partnership with Nielsen, owner of Danish company FlexiFoods, to mix horsemeat with beef before marketing it.
Nielsen and Beech, his right-hand man, pled guilty to the conspiracy charge and got 3.5 years and a suspended 18-month jail term, respectively.
During sentencing, judge Owen Davies QC said the fraud committed by the trio was “not confined to [the UK], not confined to the firms we have heard about, and it’s a big issue for the public to be concerned about”.
“But the fact is it was discovered by accident and only emerged as a problem because of your activity,” he told the defendants.
“It’s not a mitigating factor, in my judgement, that other people were at it as well as you.”
He noted that, although it is difficult to assess the impact of the horsemeat scandal, “but it made an impact on the public in general”.
“They were suspicious of the food that they had – it extended far beyond meat,” the judge said.
“The confidence in the food chain was affected adversely and the share prices of the big supermarkets were affected, and it is difficult to recreate the feeling of anxiety that the public had at the time.”
This was not an activity that was brought to an end by anything other than the arrest of the perpetrators, he added.
“The victims in question were customers, either wholesalers or the customers of the markets and supermarkets who bought an item that was not what it said it was.”
During hearing, Sideras had pled not guilty to the conspiracy charge, claiming his only involvement had been to arrange for the storage of horsemeat in his company’s warehouses on behalf of FlexiFoods.